My thoughts about the arc of BBC World Service Shortwave broadcasting parallel the life of HRH Queen Elizabeth.
So, I was listening to BBC World Service Shortwave recently. In English, to Africa on 12,095 kHz. A long time, popular BBC World Service Shortwave frequency from Wooferton. And it suddenly occurred to me that the arc of rise and fall of shortwave broadcasting paralleled the life of HRH.
Radio broadcasting began in Britain in 1922. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born four years later, in 1926. Britain’s first shortwave broadcasts started in 1925. And the British Broadcasting Corporation was formed under royal charter in 1927. All happening around the same time.
BBC World Service, under its original name of Empire Service, kicked off with a speech by the Queen’s grandfather, King George V, in December 1932. You may be interested to know that was the year of the first Royal Christmas Broadcast, as well.
BBC worked hard to become a trusted institution, and on shortwave presented Britishness to the world. Foreign language programming started with Arabic in 1938 along with a name change to Overseas Service. International broadcasting rose in stature during the 1930’s, mainly to combat the rise of Fascism.
As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen made her first public speech on 13 October 1940, with a radio address to the children of the Commonwealth , many of them living away from home due to war. Her younger sister, Princess Margaret, joined in at the end.
BBC World Service Shortwave – A Royal Arc
Of course, the 1953 Coronation was carried live on shortwave (as well as delayed on television) around the world. In 1965, another name change occurred and the BBC World Service was created.
I have fond memories of the planet’s most popular radio service. Still has more than 300 million listeners, although the number using shortwave receivers has plummeted. Less than 100 million listen to BBC World Service Shortwave today, mainly in Africa, Middle East and Asia.
WWII and the Cold War stimulated shortwave. But during the 1990’s, two factors led to its demise. First, internet and network broadcasting. Second, transmitting plants reached the end of lifetime and replacement funds for rebuilding were scarce.
I still enjoy listening to Lilliburlero and the Pips, though. Not a rock band. Just memories.