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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

In the early 1920s small broadcasting stations were established in many cities of the world. In 1922 *Marconi set up one near the Strand in London, which began all its transmissions with the signal '2LO calling'. Later that year this became the first studio of the *BBC, which by 1927 was established as a public corporation with a national monopoly of the medium. 2LO remained the BBC channel until 1930 when it expanded to two services, calling them the National Programme and the Regional Programme; London had the first regional programme in that year, and other areas round the country developed their own during the 1930s. All this output was merged in 1939 into a single new Home Service (renamed Radio 4 in 1967). Meanwhile the *World Service had also begun broadcasting.

In 1940 the BBC introduced a special light entertainment programme for British servicemen and women, calling it the Forces Programme; this became the Light Programme in 1945, and was renamed again in 1967 to become the present Radio 2. An innovation in 1946 was the Third Programme, with a brief to present serious talks and the best in drama and music. It acquired a high reputation and gradually transformed itself into the present Radio 3 – a name acquired in the same major reshuffle of 1967, which also added Britain's first legitimate pop station, Radio 1.

The launch of Radio 1 was prompted by the success in the mid-1960s of pirate radio stations, broadcasting pop music and advertisements to Britain from ships moored off the east coast. The first and best known was Radio Caroline, which won a huge following after its launch in 1964. In spite of a succession of disasters, including on one occasion being boarded by creditors and on another hitting a sandbank and sinking, Radio Caroline continued to transmit intermittently until 1990.

Meanwhile listeners in Britain had long been able to enjoy the world's most famous commercial radio station, which used British disc jockeys and was transmitted from Luxembourg. Launched in 1933, Radio Luxembourg pioneered many aspects of commercial broadcasting including the sponsored show, of which *Ovaltine's was the most successful example. The programmes were recorded in Britain on wax discs and transported to Luxembourg for transmission. The company broadcast on its famous 208 metres medium wave from 1951 to the end of 1991; it continued for a while via satellite, but ceased operation at the end of 1992.

The Sound Broadcasting Act of 1972 at last made commercial radio legal within Britain. The two London stations were the first on the air in 1974 – LBC (London Broadcasting Company) and, just a few days later, Capital Radio. Many others have since followed around the country. The first nation-wide commercial station on air, Classic FM (launched in 1992) remains probably the best known.

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