It was on Friday 28th September 1923 that the Radio Times, price 2d, was first published.
It had all begun in that spring when John Reith, the BBC’s first Director General, had received an ultimatum from the Newspaper Publishers Association that warned and then threatened him that ‘unless the Corporation paid a significant fee, none of its NPA members would carry radio programme listings.’ The threat was soon withdrawn but it was there long enough for Reith to think through an idea for the corporation to publish its own listings magazine. He came to a joint agreement with George Newnes Ltd., and the first edition of ‘The Radio Times’ – the official organ of the BBC – appeared on the news-stands on this day.
Britain’s first live public radio broadcast took place in June 1920. The public loved what they heard but this enthusiasm was not shared in official circles. They said that the broadcasts interfered with important military and civil communications and by late 1920 public broadcasts were a banned. However, by 1922, nearly 100 broadcast licence requests had been received and the General Post Office – the GPO – proposed that it would issue a single broadcasting licence to a company jointly owned by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufactures. It was to be known as the British Broadcasting Corporation – the BBC
On Saturday 20th July 1889 a boy had been born at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, Scotland – the youngest, by ten years, of seven children.
He was baptised John Charles Walsham Reith. In 1922 he was employed by the BBC as its general manager. In 1923 he became its managing director and, in 1927, he was made the Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation that had been created under a Royal Charter.
His concept of broadcasting as a way of educating the masses underpinned for a long time the BBC and similar organisations around the world.
It was on this day – Thursday 7th July 1927 – that Major Christopher Reynolds Stone D.S.O., M.C., became the first disc jockey in Britain.
Christopher Stone had been educated at Eton College and had served in the Royal Fusiliers during the war. Before the war he had published a book of Sea songs and ballads and, in 1923, had written the history of his old regiment. He also became the London editor of ‘The Gramophone’ – a magazine started by his brother-in-law Compton Mackenzie. It was this link that prompted Christopher to approach the British Broadcasting Corporation [the BBC] with the idea for a record programme. They initially dismissed the suggestion but Christopher succeeded in convincing them and, on Thursday 7th July 1927 he started playing records on air. He had a relaxed, conversational style that was exceptional at a time – most of the BBC’s presentation was extremely formal – and Christopher’s programmes became an extremely popular programme.
What his listeners were not aware of though, was that he wore a dinner jacket and tie when he presented – something that was expected of all radio presenters of the time!
In 1934 Christopher joined Radio Luxembourg on £5,000 a year and was barred by the BBC in consequence. We’ll come back to this – and other parts of his life – at a later date.