BH introduction
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  Mike Todd

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Broadcasting House
The BBC is born

First transmissions
It is very difficult to pin down an exact date when public broadcasting first began. Marconi is, of course, credited with the first real transmissions and it was the Marconi Company that started experimental broadcast transmissions from Chelmsford. But its licence was withdrawn in 1920 when the transmissions were causing interference to other communications.

In February 1922, the Marconi Company was permitted to resume weekly test transmissions, which it started from a transmitter at Writtle. The strains of "Writtle testing", and the callsign "Two Emma Toc" (2MT) were heard on 430kHz, although this was changed to 850kHz because of interference from the Post Office's "arc transmitters" near Oxford. The company was permitted to broadcast entertainment for part of their time, and these transmissions were appreciated by many listeners.

Shortly afterwards, the Marconi Company was given another licence to operate a transmitter at Marconi House, in London. This was the famous "2LO", which started broadcasting on 11th May, 1922, and was soon permitted to broadcast music. Its power was 1.5kW on a frequency of 840kHz. 2LO had to close down for three minutes every ten minutes, during which they had to listen on their own frequency, where they would have heard an order to shutdown if their transmissions were causing interference.

2LO was adventurous, and in the first few months had done three outside broadcasts. But Marconi was not the only company interested in broadcasting.

By May 1922, the Post Office had received more than twenty applications to broadcast, but most were refused. A conference was held later that month, and from a follow-up meeting in October a decision was made to form a single company that would be responsible for broadcasting in Britain. That company was the British Broadcasting Company, and its first base was in Marconi House, where it used the existing studio and transmitter of the Marconi Company.

The BBC started its first regular transmissions on 14th November, 1922, although somewhat surprisingly it did so without a licence from the Post Office, which was eventually issued retrospectively in January 1923.

Although the BBC then took over existing studios in Birmingham and Manchester, it looked around for its own premises in London, and settled on the Insitution of Electrical Engineers' building in Savoy Hill, near the Embankment, which was opened on 1st May 1923. The first studio here was Studio 3 (it was on the third floor), followed by four others so that, by 1926, there was a total of five studios in use.

By this time, the BBC's London transmitter, 2LO, had been moved from its position on Marconi House to the roof of Selfridge's store in Oxford Street - but this was now only one of a total of 21 transmitters around the country. The BBC was already fully regionalised, with transmitters serving Northern Ireland, Scotland, northern England, south Wales and the west country, and the south-east.

In 1927, the BBC became the British Corporation, the Savoy Hill studios were being extended, and the BBC's newly appointed Civil Engineer, MT Tudsbery, started looking for new headquarters for the Coporation.

More than twenty sites were considered, including the Langham Hotel, the Philharmonic Hall in Great Portland Street (once the site of St Pauls Chapel, and now the BBC's "Brock House") and Bush House, all of which eventually became part of the BBC's acommodations.

But of all the buildings considered, one stood out. Its Palladian style, its magnificent marble staircase and columns of pink granite made it an eye-catching building. And so it was that the decision was made to prepare plans for the conversion of Dorchester House, in Park Lane, into a broadcasting centre.

<< Langham Place takes shape