The BBC is born
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 But its licence was withdrawn in 1920 when the transmissions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.
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
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
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.