BBC Home Service

BBC Home Service

The BBC Home Service was a British national radio station which broadcast from 1939 until 1967.


Between the 1920s and the outbreak of World War II, the BBC had developed two nationwide radio services, the BBC National Programme and the BBC Regional Programme. As the name of the latter suggests, as well as a "basic" service programmed from London, the Regional Programme included a large measure of additional, alternative, or rescheduled programming originating in six regions. Although the programmes attracting the greatest number of listeners tended to appear on the National, the two services were not streamed – that is, they did not attempt to appeal to different audiences; instead, they appealed to a single audience but provided a choice of programming.

World War II

On 1 September 1939, the BBC merged the National and the Regional Programmes into one national service from London. The reasons given for this included the need to prevent enemy aircraft from using differentiated output from the Regional Programme's transmitters as navigational beacons. To prevent this the former "regional" transmitters were synchronised in chains onto (initially) two frequencies 668 and 767 kHz with an additional chain of low powered transmitters (known as "Group H") on 1474 kHz appearing later. Under this arrangement "regional" broadcasting in its pre-war form was no longer feasible however much of the programming on the new service was gradually decentralised to the former "regional" studios (Because of the risks from enemy attack/bombing/invasion in London) and broadcast nationally.

The new service was named the Home Service, which was also the internal designation at the BBC for domestic radio broadcasting (the organisation had had Television Service and Overseas Service departments).


On 29 July 1945, the BBC resumed its previous regional structure and began "streaming" its radio services. Following the wartime success of the Forces and General Forces Programmes, light entertainment was transferred to the new BBC Light Programme, whilst 'heavier' programming - news, drama and talks - remained on the now-regionalised Home Service.

However, popular light programming from the former national Home Service - such as "ITMA" - remained on the new Home Service; similarly, some speech programming of the type pioneered by the Forces Programmes - the newly-launched "Woman's Hour" being very much in this mould - remained on the new Light Programme.


The Home Service had seven regions.

London and South East England was served by the "basic Home Service", which was not considered a region by the BBC and acted as the sustaining service for the other regions.

A shortage of frequencies meant that the Northern Ireland Regional Home Service was treated as part of the North Regional Home Service, as the Northern Ireland service used the same frequency as a North service booster. The Northern Ireland service was separated from the North region on 7 January 1963.


As well as five national news programmes a day from London, the Home Service also provided drama, talks and informational programmes. After the BBC Third Programme began broadcasting on 29 September 1946, non-topical talk programmes and heavier drama output were transferred to the new network.


During the day, the Home Service included in its schedules a number of programmes of serious (classical) music. These were reduced in number when government limits on radio broadcasting hours were relaxed in 1964 and the BBC Music Programme began broadcasting during the daytime on the frequencies of the (evening-only) Third Programme. They disappeared entirely when the Music Programme began regular 0700-1830 daily broadcasting on 22 March 1965.


The Home Service broadcast educational programmes for use in schools during the day, backed with booklets and support material available from the BBC.


Programmes were reorganised across the three BBC networks on 30 September 1957, with much of the Home Service's lighter content transferring to the Light Programme and the establishment of the BBC Third Network, which used the frequencies of the Third Programme to carry the Home Service's adult education content (BBC Study Session) and the Home and Light's sports coverage (BBC Sports Service) as well as the Third Programme itself.

Becomes BBC Radio 4

On 30 September 1967, the BBC split the Light Programme into two services: a popular music service and an entertainment network. The Corporation took the opportunity of renaming the national networks from the same date. The Light Programme became BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2. The Third Network became BBC Radio 3, with the Music Programme losing its separate identity (the Third Programme, Study Session, and Sports Service, however, retained their identities - under the banner of BBC Network Three - until 4 April 1970).

The BBC Home Service was renamed BBC Radio 4.

Regional radio legacy

BBC Radio 4 continued as a regionalised service and continued to use the term "Home Service" to refer to regional programming and scheduling, with the Radio Times listings being headlined "BBC Radio Four - Home Service".

"Broadcasting in the Seventies"

With the introduction of BBC Local Radio, starting with BBC Radio Leicester on 8 November 1967, it was felt that the future of non-national broadcasting lay in local rather than regional services. To this end, the BBC produced a report, "Broadcasting in the Seventies", on 10 July 1969, proposing the reorganisation of programmes on the national networks and the end of regional broadcasting.

The report began to be implemented on 4 April 1970 and the Home Service regions gradually disappeared (with some of its frequencies reallocated to Independent Local Radio), until 23 November 1978 when Radio 4 was given the national longwave frequency previously used by Radio 2 and was relaunched as Radio 4 UK.

National regions

The "national regions" survived to become separate stations - BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales / BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Ulster - at first relaying the majority of Radio 4 programming but later becoming completely independent.

outh West region

The last remaining Regional Home Service was an FM-only opt-out of Radio 4 for Devon and Cornwall. This "South West Region" continued in existence until BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Devon opened on 17 January 1983.

ee also

* BBC Radio
* Timeline of the BBC
* Stations of the BBC
* BBC English Regions


* Various authors "BBC Year Book 1947" London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1947
* Various authors "BBC Year Book 1948" London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1948
* Various authors "BBC Handbook 1967" London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1967
* Various authors "BBC Handbook 1972" London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1972
* Various authors "BBC Annual Report and Handbook 1987" London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1986 ISBN 0-563-20542-3
* Paulu, Burton "British Broadcasting: Radio and Television in the United Kingdom" Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1956

External links

* [ Radiomusications from Transdiffusion]
* [ Whirligig Radio]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.