History of the BBC - 1920s

The British Broadcasting Company, as the BBC was originally called, was formed on 18 October 1922 by a group of leading wireless manufacturers including Marconi.

Daily broadcasting by the BBC began in Marconi’s London studio, 2LO, in the Strand, on November 14, 1922. John Reith, a 33-year-old Scottish engineer, was appointed General Manager of the BBC at the end of 1922.

October 1922

Where it all started - BBC Radio

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Pathe News marks the start of 2LO in a cinema newsreel

Following the closure of numerous amateur stations, the BBC started its first daily radio service in London – 2LO.

After much argument, news was supplied by an agency, and music drama and 'talks' filled the airwaves for only a few hours a day. It wasn't long before radio could be heard across the nation.

December 1922

John Reith

John Reith

John Reith

Thirty-three year old John Charles Walsham Reith became General Manager of the BBC on 14 December 1922.

There were no rules, standards or established purpose to guide him. He immediately began innovating, experimenting and organising, and with the help of his newly appointed chief engineer, Peter Eckersley, the service began to expand.

I hadn't the remotest idea as to what broadcasting was.

John Reith

September 1923

The first edition of The Radio Times

Radio Times first edition

The cover of the first Radio Times

The first edition of The Radio Times listed the few programmes on offer.

It also provided advice for budding radio enthusiasts, and numerous advertisements by the fledgling radio industry, offering the latest in radio receiving technology.It was to become one of the world’s most popular listing magazines.

February 1924

Greenwich Time Signal (GTS) - the 'pips'

Heard on BBC radio since 1924, six electronically generated 'pips' to indicate the time.

Greenwich Time Signal apparatus

Invented by the Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson, and the Director General of the BBC John Reith.

The six short 'pips' were designed to mark the precise start of every hour on BBC radio. Today the GTS is heard on BBC Radio 4, and other BBC networks. Time signals based on the same principle exist in other countries.

January 1927

The British Broadcasting Corporation

BBC Royal Charter

The BBC's Royal Charter

The BBC is established by Royal Charter as the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Sir John Reith becomes the first Director-General. The Charter defined the BBC’s objectives, powers and obligations. It is mainly concerned with broad issues of policy, while the Director-General and senior staff are responsible for detailed fulfilment of that policy.

November 1929

John Logie Baird tests television

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John Logie Baird tests mechanical TV in his workshop

Using BBC frequencies, John Logie Baird broadcast some of his first experimental television broadcasts from studios near Covent Garden in London.

Pictures were in black and white, created by mechanical means, and flickered, consisting of just 30 lines definition.