BBC Home Service

The BBC Home Service was a British national radio station that broadcast from 1939 until 1967, when it was renamed BBC Radio 4.

BBC Home Service
United Kingdom
HeadquartersBroadcasting House, London, UK
Launch date
1 September 1939 (1939-09-01)
Dissolved29 September 1967 (1967-09-29)
Replaced byBBC Radio 4



Between the 1920s and the outbreak of World War II, the BBC developed two nationwide radio services, the BBC National Programme and the BBC Regional Programme. As well as a basic service programmed from London, the Regional Programme included programming originating in six regions. Although the programme items attracting the greatest number of listeners tended to appear on the National, the two services were not streamed: they were each designed to appeal "across the board" to a single, but variegated, audience by offering between them and at most times of the day a choice of programme type, rather than simply catering, each of them exclusively, to two distinct audiences.

World War IIEdit

On 1 September 1939, the BBC merged the two programmes into one national service from London. The reasons given included the need to prevent enemy aircraft from using differentiated output from the Regional Programme's transmitters as navigational beacons. To this end, the former regional transmitters were synchronised in chains on (initially) two frequencies, 668 (South) and 767 kHz (North), with an additional chain of low-powered transmitters (known as "Group H") on 1474 kHz appearing later.[1] Under this arrangement regional broadcasting in its pre-war form was no longer feasible, but much of the programming was gradually decentralised to the former regional studios because of the risks from enemy attack or bombing 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 also had Television Service and Overseas Service departments).

During the war, BBC Home Service would air each day from 7.00am until 12.15am, with main news bulletins airing at 7.00am, 8.00am, 1.00pm, 6.00pm, 9.00pm and midnight.


On 29 July 1945, the BBC resumed its previous regional structure, though true regional radio stations would not return until the 1970s, and began "streaming" its radio services.[clarification needed] 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, discussion, etc — remained on the regionalised Home Service.

Popular light programming, such as It's That Man Again, remained on the Home Service, and some speech programming of the type pioneered by the Forces Programme — the newly launched Woman's Hour being very much in this mould — was on the Light Programme.

Once war was over, the BBC Home Service adjusted its broadcasting hours, now commencing at 6.25am each weekday and at 7.50am on Sundays. The broadcasting day would end around 11.10pm each night. By 1964, the Home Service was on the air each day from 6.35am (7.50am on Sundays) and would conclude each night at the precise time of 11.48pm.


The BBC Home Service had seven different regions, within London and South East England was served by the "basic" 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.

Region Home city
Booster signal wavelengths and frequencies in parentheses
n/a London 330 (202) 908 (1484)
Midland Birmingham 276 1088
North Manchester 434 (261, 202) 692 (1151, 1484)
West Bristol 285
Welsh Cardiff 341 881
Scottish Glasgow 371 809
Northern Ireland Belfast Until 1963: 261 1151
From 1963: 224 1340


The service provided between five and seven national news bulletins a day from London, with drama, talks and informational programmes. Non-topical talk programmes and heavier drama output were transferred to the BBC Third Programme when it began broadcasting on 29 September 1946.


During the day, the service also included programmes of 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 were disappeared when the Music Programme began regular broadcasting daily from 7.00am to 6.30pm on 22 March 1965.


The service broadcast educational programmes for schools during the day, backed with booklets and support material.


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.

BBC Radio 4Edit

On 30 September 1967, the BBC split the Light Programme into a pop music service and an entertainment network. The Light Programme became BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2. The BBC Third Programme became BBC Radio 3, with the Music Programme losing its separate identity (the Third Programme, Study Session, and Sports Service retained their identities under the banner of BBC Network Three until 4 April 1970). The Home Service was renamed BBC Radio 4.

Regional radio legacyEdit

Initially, Radio 4 continued to provide for regional programming and scheduling, and the BBC's weekly programme journal magazine Radio Times listed the channel's offerings under the heading "BBC Radio 4 – Home Service", with particular reference to the seven broadcasting regions: London, Midlands (including East Anglia), North of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and West.

Broadcasting in the SeventiesEdit

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. The BBC produced a report called 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 their 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 the 'Radio 4 UK' service (remained until 29 September 1984), with two additional longwave transmitters opened in Scotland.

English regional news bulletinsEdit

Radio 4 FM continued to carry four daily five-minute regional news bulletins on Mondays to Saturdays until mid-1980, by which time when BBC Local Radio had reached most areas of England. The wide coverage of the Holme Moss transmitter meant that listeners in much of Northern England received combined North and North West news bulletins as well.

National regionsEdit

The "national regions" became BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales/Cymru and BBC Radio Ulster, at first relaying the majority of Radio 4 programming but later becoming completely independent.

East AngliaEdit

During the 1970s, Radio 4 FM in the East of England (Tacolneston, Peterborough and relays) carried a breakfast magazine programme, Roundabout East Anglia, the region lacking any BBC Local Radio.[2] The service closed in mid-1980, ahead of the opening of BBC Radio Norfolk.[2]

South WestEdit

The last Regional Home Service was an FM opt-out of Radio 4 for Devon and Cornwall as the "South West Region". Morning Sou'West was also carried on several low-power medium wave transmitters. The programme ended on 31 December 1982, ahead of the launch of BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Devon on 17 January 1983.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b "BBC Radio Norfolk's 25th anniversary". BBC. 9 September 2005. Retrieved 10 February 2012.


  • BBC Year Book 1947 (various authors), London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1947.
  • BBC Year Book 1948 (various authors), London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1948.
  • BBC Handbook 1967 (various authors), London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1967.
  • BBC Handbook 1972 (various authors), London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1972.
  • BBC Annual Report and Handbook 1987 (various authors), London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1986 [sic]. ISBN 0-563-20542-3.
  • Paulu, Burton: British Broadcasting: Radio and Television in the United Kingdom, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1956.

External linksEdit