Fascinating look back at BBC’s first day of radio transmission 100 years ago, after broadcaster was born in October 1922
Posted by  badge Boss on Oct 18
The BBC’s legacy is unparalleled (Picture: Getty/BBC Pictures Archive)

It’s incredible to fathom the fact that the has been going for a whole 100 years.

However, , the British Broadcasting Company (as it was then known) came into being, having been founded on October 18 1922 by a group of wireless manufacturers, including telecommunications and engineering company Marconi.

While today marks the , it was the following month that the firm’s legacy in radio began.

On November 14 1922, the BBC began broadcasting daily from Marconi’s studio 2LO, located on the Strand in the English capital.

The radio launched with a similar slate of material that’s broadcast across the airwaves today, treating listeners to news, talks and music – although it goes without saying that radio has taken great strides in its development ever since.

The decision to launch the BBC (which has been known as the British Broadcasting Corporation since 1927) came after months of deliberation.

People quickly realised the potential for the growth of radio (Picture: BBC Pictures Archive)
BBC Television came several years later (Picture: BBC Pictures Archive)

Five months before the BBC was officially founded, several companies met with the Post Office to discuss the prospect of delivering regular radio broadcasting to the nation.

There were initially concerns that regular radio broadcasting could disrupt other services, such as those transmitted by the armed forces.

Nonetheless, the British government eventually licensed the BBC through the General Post Office, which had ‘original control of the airwaves because they had been interpreted under law as an extension of the Post Office services’, the BBC explained.

The call sign ‘2LO calling’ became well known after BBC radio was born in the London studio (Picture: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
Many people can’t imagine going about daily life without radio (Picture: BBC Pictures Archive)

Commercial radio was in its infancy when the BBC started, having already started to make waves (literally and metaphorically) across the pond in the US.

When the daily broadcasts began in mid-November 1922, the first programme of the evening would be the 6pm news bulletin, which was supplied by news agencies.

Next up came the weather forecast compiled by the Met Office, which has been around since 1854.

Arthur Burrows, aka Uncle Arthur, was director of programmes for the BBC (Picture: Culture Club/Getty Images)
Dancer Mira Devi is seen at Baird Studios for the BBC in 1936 (Picture: BBC)

The news bulletin and the weather forecast were read by Arthur Burrows, who was the director of programmes at the BBC.

Burrows, who became fondly known as ‘Uncle Arthur’ to listeners across the nation, would read the bulletins twice, the BBC said, as this enabled people to make notes if they wanted to jot down the news and forecasts that they heard.

He was one of the earliest employees of the BBC, having previously worked at Marconi House, where the first 2LO station was located.

Taken around 1935, Jack Payne with Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra (Picture: GAB Archive/Redferns)

Soon after the birth of the BBC and its radio, BBC TV also came into existence.

On January 1 1927, a royal charter came into effect, which saw the company become the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Five years later, the first experimental television programme produced by the BBC was broadcast, which was filmed in the basement of Broadcasting House.

The BBC Television Service was opened by singer and actress Adele Dixon in November 1936, who was filmed singing Magic Rays of Light (Picture: BBC Picture Archives/Sue Connolly)
The opening of the BBC Television Service was a historic affair, with The Pearly King, Queen and Prince of Blackfriars among those taking part (Picture: BBC)

The BBC Television Service was officially launched on November 2 1936, after first trialling the service with special broadcasts and test transmissions over the summer.

Now almost a century later, the BBC is famed for TV programmes including Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, Antiques Roadshow, The Repair Shop, The Apprentice, EastEnders and many more, several of which are part of the centenary celebrations.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the firm, BBC Chairman Richard Sharp said in a statement that it’s ‘time to celebrate, but also to embrace the future’.

What special programmes are on for BBC at 100?

  • Strictly Come Dancing: Celebrating BBC 100 – Saturday October 22, 6.40pm, BBC One
  • How The BBC Began: Part 1 – Saturday October 22, 7pm, BBC Two
  • Antiques Roadshow: 100 Years of The BBC – Sunday October 23, 5.45pm, BBC One
  • Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor – Sunday October 23, 7.30pm, BBC One
  • Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice – Sunday October 23, 9pm, BBC Two
  • The Repair Shop: Centenary Special – Wednesday October 26, 8pm, BBC One
  • Kids’ TV: The Surprising Story – Wednesday October 26, 9pm, BBC One
  • The Love Box in Your Living Room with Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse – Thursday October 27, 9pm, BBC Two
  • Saturday Kitchen Live – Saturday October 29, 10am, BBC One
  • How The BBC Began Part 2 – Saturday October 29, 7pm, BBC Two

‘I believe its best days are ahead. We have always innovated, changed and adapted. Our path has always been guided by the needs of audiences,’ he said.

‘We are just as mindful of that today as we have always been. By continuing to put the public first, we will continue to inform, educate and entertain for another century.’

BBC Director-General Tim Davie stressed that the firm’s mission is ‘to inform, educate, and entertain, has never been more relevant or needed’.

‘For a century, the BBC has been a beacon of trusted news and programming across the world, as well as being part of the fabric of the UK and one of its key institutions,’ he said.

‘It has been a story of a devotion to public service and constant reinvention –which those in the BBC today remain utterly committed to. We exist to serve the public – doing that will guide the next 100 years.’