Playing everything from well-known dance, pop, hip-hop and indie hits to a variety of alternative genres, it’s no surprise BBC Radio 1 is one of the most listened to radio stations in the UK. Radio 1 was born out of the need for a radio station that played similar tracks to that heard on pirate radio stations during the late 60s. The style of this radio station echos the feel of many pirate radio shows. The BBC even employed some ex-pirate radio DJs including Tony Blackburn and Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart. Flash forward almost 60 years, BBC Radio 1 still carries that underground vibe. Now with many shows and events such as the Live Lounge and famed Dance music playlists, the station has a large demographic reach with millions of listeners.
Many pirate radio stations broadcasting to Britain from the sea such as Radio London, Radio Caroline and Swinging Radio became outlawed in 1966. Following the introduction of the Marine Offences Act 1967, pirate radio and fort radio stations were banned from operating. Obviously public pressure arose, including public demonstrations, to keep these stations ‘on the air’. The UK Government and the BBC were left embarrassed by the large number of people listening to these stations.
British pop music was selling worldwide, however, following the ruling against pirate radio stations, there was little airtime given to these artists and bands. At the time the BBC had three radio stations – none of which played a collection of popular music from all over the globe. These stations were:
|Light||Which broadcasted a mix of mainstream light |
entertainment and music
|Home Service||News, drama, talks and informational programmes|
|Third||Arts and culture programmes|
The BBC revamped their Light Programme and turned it into Radio 1 and Radio 2. Radio 1 can be found on DAB: 12B/FM: 97.1
BBC introduced a 24-hour radio music station to replace the outlawed pirate “pop” stations. Originally called Radio 247, the BBCs’ new radio station aimed to attract the listeners of pirate broadcasts. The station would carry news, updates, and occasionally classical music.
The Postmaster General, Edward Short announced in Parliament on June 30th 1967 the BBC would open their new ‘pop channel’ on September 30th. The station would broadcast continuous pop music from 7 AM to 7.30 PM followed by light music talk shows until 2 AM. On July 27th 1967, the BBC Director of Radio, Frank Gillard, announced a strategy to ‘kill off’ the Light Programme, Home Service and Third Programme. His vision of radio stations would be ‘Radio by Numbers’.
September 30th, 1967 marked the first day of Radio 1 going on air. Located at Broadcasting House, London, BBCs’ headquarters, Radio 1 kicked off its first day with the ‘Breakfast Special’.
The first DJ hired was Tony Blackburn who presented the new show ‘Daily Disc Delivery’. His show paid homage to the style of programming first heard on pirate radio shows such as Radio Caroline and Radio London. Bee Gees were the first live group who appeared on the show on the Saturday Club at 10 AM. Even since day one BBC Radio 1 had many listeners, however, many young listeners were not interested. Many hoped this show would replace the pirate radio shows but BBC Radio 1 had to observe the Phonographic Performance Ltd. ‘needle time’ regulations of 37 max hrs per week. The station was only allowed to play ‘commercial gramophone records’ for 7 hours per day over both networks. Some ‘dual station’ broadcasts continued until 1979 when Radio 2 became the first UK national 24-hour radio station.
BBC Radio 1 played an important part in the rise of Britpop in the UK. Now known as the Official Chart Update, the Pick of the Pops chart show has aired every Sunday since the 60s and highlights the biggest songs in the charts. From its inception till today, this is one of the most listened to radio shows in the UK.
Although Radio 1 had the full force of the BBC behind them, they were still met with a few challenges. Radio 1 was the only of four major networks to not have a Stereo FM frequency for over 20 years. There was not enough space on the FM dial, however, in 1988 a frequency range of 97-99Mhz was allocated to Radio One. This was because the UK Police relay transmitters were moved from the 100mHz FM Frequency.
BBC Radio 1, with their sister show Radio 1 extra have also become well-known for showcasing up and coming talent. Through shows such as Rickie, Melvin and Charlie’s Night Shift Request or Radio 1’s Indie Show with Jack Saunders, many new talents have gained airtime. Although listenership has dramatically fallen over the last 20 years, these iconic radio shows intertwined with relevant commentary and are still very important to pop and music culture today.
The daytime music format of BBC Radio 1 station was mainly chart pop music. Whilst evening programmes reflected up-and-coming bands, rock and new-wave music. The Station Controller, Johnnie Beerling, tried tirelessly to make the station more appealing to all ages. The network established transmissions from 6 AM – 12 AM every day in January 1979, when the station became separated from Radio 2. The ‘Live Aid’ concert, the decade’s biggest rock event, was broadcast in full on Radio One July 1985. Just one example of the events and special programming that BBC Radio 1 broadcasts.
For many artists, BBC Radio 1 is also seen as the perfect radio station to boost their career. From 1999 until 2012, the station split the home nations for localised programming in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This allowed the broadcast of a showcase programme for regional artists and bands. Most recently, these shows were under the BBC Introducing programmes. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had their own shows, which were broadcast on a 3-week rotational basis in England.
Every once in awhile BBC Radio One changes their programming. On certain days, i.e. banks holidays examples of special programming include ‘The 10 Hour Takeover’, ‘One Hit Wonder Day’ and ‘The Chart of the Decade’. BBC Radio 1 also changes their regular programming for anniversaries i.e. on Sunday 30 September 2007 when Radio 1 celebrated its 40th birthday. To mark this anniversary Radio 1 hosted a week of special shows.
Not only does Radio 1 broadcast numerous events, the station, sometimes alongside their partner radio stations (BBC Radio 2/Radio 4), they host events that are crucial to UK music.
DJ’s such as Noel Edmonds and Dave Lee Travis gained national recognition through working at the Radio 1 Roadshow. Introduced by former Radio 1 controller Johnny Beerling, this event was aimed at eradicating the idea that Radio 1 was only for Londoners. The Radio 1 Roadshow began in 1973. It includes Radio 1 DJs and pop stars travelling around popular resorts in the UK. It was first hosted by Alan Freeman in Newquay, Cornwall. The last one took place at Heaton Park, Manchester in 1999. The Roadshow was an instant hit and attracted large crowds, however, this type of event became outdated with the changes in radio, music, and pop culture. It was axed in 2000. The same year, Radio 1 launched a series of one-day pop concerts known collectively as One Big Sunday and then BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend.
Taking place annually in the UK in different locations, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend has included artists such as Rhianna, Jay-Z and Florence and the Machine. The form of the event has varied over the years, from one tent in 2003 to six stages in 2012. All events from 2013-onwards have consisted of one outdoor main stage and one tented second stage. Plus one much smaller stage or small dedicated areas to showcase emerging artists supported by BBC Introducing. Last month BBC Radio did their first Big Weekend Virtual event which can be listened to on the BBC iPlayer.
As Radio 1 is famed for its dance playlists and showcasing dance and techno music. Every year, Radio 1s’ Ibiza Weekend has a setlist featuring from world-famous DJs and Radio 1’s own regular talents such as Pete Tong and Annie Mac, all hosted on the party island of Ibiza.
Another one of BBC Radio 1’s well-known events is the Teen Awards. Since 2008, Radio 1 has held an annual event for teenagers aged 14 to 17 years. Originally named BBC Switch Live, the first event was Hammersmith Apollo. The event has been hosted by DJs such as Nick Grimshaw and guest co-hosts include stars such as Jessie J, One Direction and Tinie Tempah.
Although radio stations such as Heart Radio, Capital FM and Classic FM still have millions of listeners daily, BBC Radio 1 is still the fourth most listened to station in the UK. The range of shows, talented DJ’s and the artists that regularly appear on the radio station makes it truly unique. For numerous musicians and bands, BBC Radio one has played an integral part in their career.
The airtime BBC 1 gives to new talent is also another reason why the station still has a large following. Many people still prefer the underground edge this station has. With special DJ playlists dedicated to rising stars, you have a shot at being played!. Get in touch with BBC Radio 1 here!