HOME, LIGHT and THIRD - BBC AM RADIO IN THE EARLY 1960s
Until the mid-70s and the proliferation of independent local stations the vast majority of radio listeners used AM (MF, medium wave) rather than FM (VHF).
Until 1967 there was a choice of just three BBC stations:
- The Home Service
- The Light Programme
- The Third Programme.
These subsequently became Radio 4, Radio 2 and Radio 3 respectively.
Unlike Radio 4 the Home Service was regional, offering opt-outs of regional news in England with a greater diversity of programmes in the other national regions. The regions, with their corresponding main wavelengths and frequencies, were:
It appears that for some time the NI service shared the 261m wavelength with the North region, but it was later allocated its own wavelength.
The Light Programme had a completely different transmission setup in that it relied on a single high power transmitter on 1500m (200kHz) Long Wave. From its location in the West Midlands the Droitwich transmitter covered a considerable amount of the British Isles but some lower power relay stations also operated on 247m (1214kHz.)
The Third Programme also relied heavily on a single transmitter. This one was built at Daventry in Northamptonshire and covered much of England on 464m (647kHz) with a few additional very low power relay stations operating on 194m (1547kHz).
The coverage provided by these transmitters may seem desultory but remember that the areas shown were the limit of night-time fading. Coverage during the day was significantly better than that shown. Even so, it made listening to the Test Match Special commentaries a challenge whilst on holiday in the West Country without a transistor radio with VHF!
It will be seen that these frequencies are very similar to those in use by existing wavelengths today, the present arrangements having been adopted after the major frequency re-shuffle of November 1978.
More on the development of BBC AM Radio on Martin Ellen's BBC Eng.info site here
On the Home Front - BBC AM Radio in the South-East