Telly Years

In this section, we take a look back at sample BBC television and radio schedules from years gone by, with listings from the BBC Genome Project.

We also have timelines of key dates in broadcasting for each decade.

On this page we look at the 1920s. On other pages: 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. For 2000 and 2010s we have broadcasting dates only.


We start this section with a couple of 'radio' rather than 'telly' years. On 14th February 1922, Guglielmo Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd began regular weekly broadcasts from 2MT, Britain's first radio station, which was based in a timber hut at Writtle near Chelmsford.

In May, Marconi opened a second station, 2LO, in London, and on 14th November 1922 this was taken over by the newly-formed British Broadcasting Company Ltd, of which Marconi's company was one of the shareholders. (2MT closed in early 1923 and did not become part of the BBC).

The first programme to be broadcast by the BBC was the 6.00pm news. It was read twice by the company's Director of Programmes, Arthur Burrows - once at normal speed, then again at slow speed should listeners want to make notes.

We're not sure what else, if anything, was broadcast that evening - listings this early in the BBC's existence are not available on the Genome website, as 'The Radio Times' did not begin until September 1923, as a reponse to a press that was hostile towards the BBC (no change there then!) and refused to print any of their programme details unless they paid normal advertising rates. (The BBC blog post from 2010 announcing the Genome project stated that it was planned that listings from 1922-1923, originating from unnamed 'other sources', would be integrated into the website, but this has yet to transpire).

The following day, the BBC began broadcasts from two more stations - 5IT in Birmingham and 2ZY in Manchester - and over the next few years, a whole network of radio stations sprang up across the UK.


BBC Genome schedule for Sunday 30 September 1923

The first day's listings to be carried by 'The Radio Times' - we have linked to the 2LO listings, but details for the BBC's other stations can be accessed via the same link.

Although the BBC began as a network of local stations, this was more down to practicality than any particular desire to provide a local service to each area. Each station's schedule was made up largely of music programmes, but there were also news bulletins (national and local), talks and children's stories.

To begin with, each station was entirely separate, but this wasn't to last - this first edition of RT carried news of the arrival of a new innovation, that of 'simultaneous broadcasting', which would take effect from 1st October. This would enable output from any one station to be carried simultaneously by any or all of the others. Thus 'networking' was born!

The very first programme on 2LO to be listed by Radio Times was an Organ Recital from London's Steinway Hall at 3.00pm, followed by more organ music. Programmes resumed at 8.30pm, with much of the evening's output taken up with music from the Band of His Majesty's Royal Air Force, interspersed with songs from soprano Miss Nora Delmarr, an address by the Rev H Blackburne, and a news bulletin.

In 1925, the 5XX long wave station at Daventry began long wave transmissions, in effect becoming the UK's first national radio station. Then from 1930 onwards, the original local stations were replaced by variants of the Regional Programme, with 5XX becoming the National Programme.

So, the development of radio was well under way - but television was not far behind...


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 29 September 1929

Although the date of 2nd November 1936 is widely recognised as the start of a public television service by the BBC, broadcasts of television had in fact already been taking place for several years.

At 11.00am on the 29th September 1929, John Logie Baird began regular daily television transmissions, borrowing the BBC's 2LO medium wave transmitter on the Selfridges building in London's Oxford Street for half-an-hour each morning. The broadcasts were made using Baird's mechnical low definition 30-line system.

The Radio Times included the inaugural transmission in amongst its schedules for the 2LO radio station, without any special mention or fanfare. The listing contains no details about the content of the broadcast, which was produced from the Baird Television Company's premises at Long Acre, Covent Garden, but what is known is that one of the participants was a singer named Miss Lulu Stanley.

These very early broadcasts must been a bizarre viewing experience for the few who possessed one of Baird's 'Televisors' - as only one frequency was available, sound and vision were transmitted alternately for two minutes at a time! By March 1930, two transmitters at Brookmans Park in Hertfordshire had been brought into service, carrying the London Regional Programme (which replaced 2LO) and the National Programme respectively. Thus it would now be possible for sound and vision to be transmitted simultaneously.

July 1930 saw the broadcast of the first television play, The Man with a Flower in His Mouth, but the BBC were less than impressed with the results of this new-fangled television process, and the following week suspended involvement with the programming. Baird pressed on regardless, continuing with his regular mid-morning transmissions until June 1932.

But this was not the end of television by any means...

1920s Timeline

15/06/20 Experimental broadcast made by Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd in Writtle
23/11/20 Further experimental broadcasts banned for defence reasons
14/02/22 Marconi begins regular transmissions of Britain's first radio station, 2MT, from Writtle
11/05/22 2LO, Marconi's London station, begins transmissions
16/05/22 The Metropolitan Vickers Company begins experimental broadcasts from 2ZY Manchester
18/10/22 British Broadcasting Company Ltd founded
14/11/22 The BBC begins broadcasting on 2LO
15/11/22 The BBC begins broadcasting from 5IT Birmingham and 2ZY Manchester
14/12/22 JCW Reith appointed General Manager of the BBC
23/12/22 First daily news bulletin
24/12/22 5NO begins broadcasts from Newcastle-upon-Tyne
24/12/22 First radio play - The Truth About Father Christmas
08/01/23 First outside broadcast (from Covent Garden), the British National Opera Company's production of The Magic Flute
17/01/23 2MT closes
18/01/23 The UK Postmaster General grants the BBC a licence to broadcast
13/02/23 5WA begins broadcasts from Cardiff
06/03/23 5SC begins broadcasts from Glasgow
26/03/23 First weather forecast
01/05/23 The BBC opens its studios at Savoy Hill
28/09/23 First issue of Radio Times published
10/10/23 2BD begins broadcasts from Aberdeen
17/10/23 6BM begins broadcasts from Bournemouth
16/11/23 The first relay station, 6FL, begins broadcasts to Sheffield
31/12/23 First broadcast of chimes of Big Ben to usher in the New Year
05/02/24 First airing of the Greenwich Time Signal
28/03/24 5PY Plymouth relay station opened
04/04/24 First schools broadcast, given by Sir Henry Walford Davies
23/04/24 First broadcast by King George V, opening the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium
01/05/24 2EH Edinburgh relay station opened
09/06/24 5XX opens with experimental broadcasts on 1600m LW from Chelmsford
11/06/24 6LV Liverpool relay station opened
08/07/24 2LS Leeds, 2LS Bradford relay stations opened
15/08/24 6KH Hull relay station opened
14/09/24 2BE begins broadcasts from Belfast
16/09/24 5NG Nottingham relay station opened
09/11/24 2DE Dundee relay station opened
21/11/24 6ST Stoke-on-Trent relay station opened
12/12/24 5SX Swansea relay station opened
27/07/25 5XX long wave station moved to Daventry, radiating 2LO's programming on 1600m
26/09/26 First broadcast of the Epilogue
14/11/26 The Geneva Plan is implemented, extending the MW band to 1200 kHz with 10 kHz channel spacing
31/12/26 British Broadcasting Company Ltd dissolved
01/01/27 British Broadcasting Corporation established by Royal Charter
07/07/27 Christopher Stone is the first British disc jockey, presenting a programme of gramophone records
13/08/27 First BBC Promenade Concert
21/08/27 5GB Daventry Experimental high power station opens on 610kHz. 5IT Birmingham closes
11/11/27 5SW Chelmsford experimental short wave station opens
05/09/28 Ban on controversial broadcasting lifted
30/10/28 First experimental transmission of still pictures by the Fultograph Process
31/10/28 5NG Nottingham closes
13/01/29 The Brussels Plan is implemented, extending the MW band to 1500 kHz, abandoning 10 kHz channel spacing
16/01/29 First edition of The Listener published
30/06/29 The Prague Plan is implemented
30/09/29 First daily television broadcast using Baird's 30-line system at 11.00am
21/10/29 Opening of the Brookman's Park transmitter in Hertfordshire, radiating 2LO on MW

Next page: 1930s


BBC Genome
BBC Schedules
History of the BBC