On the Air .

Evergreen - - Contents - Geral­dine Miller

This year, marks 50 years since BBC Ra­dio One be­gan broad­cast­ing. At 7.00am on the 30th September 1967 a count­down by the con­troller of Radios One and Two, Robin Scott, launched the sta­tion. This was fol­lowed by a jin­gle — the first to be played on BBC Ra­dio — which be­gan with “The voice of Ra­dio One”, then Tony Black­burn an­nounced, “And good morn­ing ev­ery­one. Wel­come to the ex­cit­ing new sound of Ra­dio One.” The first record he played was “Flow­ers in the Rain” by The Move.

Across the past five decades the sta­tion, which now broad­casts in­ter­na­tion­ally as well as na­tion­ally, has brought its lis­ten­ers popular mu­sic and chart hits through­out the day. The weekly count­down of the UK of­fi­cial sin­gles chart has been a highlight for many lis­ten­ers over the years.

In 1967 the Marine Broad­cast­ing Of­fences Act was passed to out­law pi­rate ra­dio sta­tions such as Ra­dio Caro­line and Ra­dio London. In or­der to sat­isfy the de­mand for pop mu­sic, the BBC de­cided to cre­ate Ra­dio One, while Radios Two, Three and Four re­placed the Light Pro­gramme, the Third Pro­gramme and the Home Ser­vice re­spec­tively. Johnny Beer­ling was in­stru­men­tal in es­tab­lish­ing the sta­tion and be­came ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer in 1972. He re­cruited disc jock­eys and pro­duced the first broad­cast by Tony Black­burn.

Be­fore Ra­dio One, Tony Black­burn had worked on Ra­dio Caro­line and Ra­dio London. It was his cheery voice that earned him a job — and the much- cov­eted role — as the first pre­sen­ter on the new sta­tion’s Break­fast Show.

The line- up of staff also in­cluded John Peel, Ed Ste­wart, Alan Free­man, Pete Mur­ray, Kenny Everett, Jimmy Young and Terry Wo­gan. Like Tony Black­burn, some of them came to work for Ra­dio One from pi­rate ra­dio.

Ini­tially the new sta­tion was not as popular with its tar­get au­di­ence as it was ex­pected to be. Among the rea­sons for this was the fact that it shared air­time with its sis­ter sta­tion Ra­dio Two; it was also seen as part of the Es­tab­lish­ment, which put­off some po­ten­tial lis­ten­ers, while “needle time” lim­ited the amount of com­mer­cial mu­sic that could be played on the ra­dio.

Needle time was cre­ated in Bri­tain by the Mu­si­cians’ Union and Phono­graphic Per­for­mance Lim­ited to re­strict the amount of recorded mu­sic that could be broad­cast within a 24- hour pe­riod. The BBC used to play “cover” ver­sions of songs recorded at the BBC to fill the hours. Over the years the hours of com­mer­cially recorded mu­sic that could be played in­creased, but this re­stric­tion lasted un­til 1988. In con­trast the pi­rate sta­tions op­er­ated un­der no such re­stric­tions. Ra­dio One also had lim­ited fi­nances as the BBC li­cence fee had not in­creased to take into ac­count the op­er­a­tion of the new sta­tion.

Grad­u­ally, though, these is­sues were over­come and lis­tener num­bers started to climb. Ra­dio One soon es­tab­lished it­self as one of the most lis­tened to sta­tions in the world, with the num­bers of peo­ple tun­ing in reach­ing over 10 mil­lion.

An­nie Nightin­gale who had pre­vi­ously worked at the BBC moved to Ra­dio One and be­came the first fe­male disc jockey. Her de­but broad­cast was a Sun­day evening show, which aired on 5th Oc­to­ber 1969, and she still broad­casts on the sta­tion to­day — its longest­serv­ing pre­sen­ter — re­flect­ing her will­ing­ness to adapt her mu­si­cal tastes and em­brace the mu­sic scene of suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions.

In 1973 Johnny Beer­ling launched the Ra­dio One Road­show. This be­came a huge an­nual event, held ev­ery sum­mer in towns and sea­side re­sorts. It grew from a small car­a­van sit­u­ated on Newquay beach, to a

show broad­cast from an 80- foot mo­bile stage based on ar­tic­u­lated lor­ries, along­side a huge out­door screen. Num­bers at­tend­ing the event grew to ap­prox­i­mately half a mil­lion. The last Road­show took place at Heaton Park, Manch­ester, in 1999. The event was re­placed by the Ra­dio One Big Week­end, which trav­els to dif­fer­ent locations around the coun­try each year. The tick­ets for this are free mak­ing it the big­gest free mu­sic fes­ti­val in Europe.

Matthew Ban­nis­ter, who took over from Johnny Beer­ling in Oc­to­ber 1993, wanted to take the sta­tion back to its roots and make it more ap­peal­ing to younger lis­ten­ers. Although the sta­tion be­gan with this in­ten­tion, the orig­i­nal young lis­ten­ers were now older. In Jan­uary 1995 any mu­sic recorded be­fore 1990 was banned from the day­time playlist.

The de­vel­op­ment of tech­nol­ogy has had a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the ra­dio in­clud­ing the launch of the sta­tion on DAB in 2002. It is now avail­able on many dif­fer­ent de­vices en­abling peo­ple to lis­ten wher­ever they are, at what­ever time of day — or night. Sky, Vir­gin and Free­view all broad­cast ra­dio sta­tions and so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers can also ac­cess the ra­dio on Twit­ter or Face­book. Times have cer­tainly changed!

Ra­dio One has de­vel­oped im­mensely since its launch 50 years ago. Disc jock­eys have come and gone, and the sta­tion has gone from strength to strength. From be­ing avail­able only at cer­tain times in its early days, it now has 24- hour cov­er­age in count­less dif­fer­ent ways.

As well as mu­sic, the sta­tion has reg­u­lar news and cur­rent af­fairs re­ports through­out the day. Ra­dio One is based in Broad­cast­ing House, London, although it has re­gional cen­tres around the coun­try. To­day, as it cel­e­brates 50 years of broad­cast­ing, Ra­dio One is among the most popular sta­tions; even roy­alty tune in as Prince Wil­liam ad­mit­ted when he and his wife, Catherine, spoke about the Heads To­gether charity on the Scott Mills Af­ter­noon Show ear­lier this year. Happy 50th birth­day, Ra­dio One!


Tony Black­burn pre­sent­ing the Break­fast Show on Ra­dio One in 1967. Flow­ers in the Rain by The Move was the first record played.

The Ra­dio Times cover an­nounc­ing the sta­tion’s launch.

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