Transmitter development in Scotland

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The first stations

The first scheme of distribution consisted of eight so-called 'main stations', those at London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Cardiff and Bournemouth.[1] The transmitter in each case supplied approximately 1 kW to the aerial, and the effective service range was between 20 and 30 miles, varying with the nature of the country and the wavelength used. These eight stations, put into operation between November 1922 and October 1923, provided an adequate service for the thickly populated districts in which they were situated, but it was soon found that there were several districts almost equally dense in population, which were entirely outside the area in which good reception could be obtained on a regular day or night basis.

At that time most of the programmes were supplied locally from studios and points situated near to the transmitters. It was not considered practicable or economic to introduce a large number of additional main stations each originating its own programme, and tests were made to see whether it would be possible to extend the supply of programmes to additional stations by means of telephone line connections with existing centres. These tests were successful, and resulted in the establishment of 11 relay stations, working on low power (approximately 12 kW in the aerial), situated in Sheffield, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, Hull, Nottingham, Dundee, Stoke-on-Trent and Swansea. Each of these cities was equipped with a studio so that the origination of programmes locally was possible. These stations were put into operation between November 1923 and December 1924.[2]

Westerglen and the Regional Scheme

Westerglen was the site of the BBC's third 'twin-wave' transmitting station, which from 1932 allowed two programme services to be radiated to Scotland simultaneously for the first time and over a much larger area than before.

This new arrangement took-in 80 per cent of the population of Scotland (a large proportion of the remainder was served by the Aberdeen transmitter, which remained in service). Compared to the city-based transmitters they were replacing, the new Regional transmitters brought an additional one million listeners into a 'good service area'.[3]

The full regular Scottish Regional Programme service was officially launched on 12 June 1932. On this date the old city-based transmitters in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee were closed down (they stood by for a time in case of breakdown at Westerglen but were then dismantled).[4]

The second, alternative service, the Scottish National Programme began public test transmissions on 22 August 1932, with the full service officially launched on 25 September 1932.

Second World War

From 1 September 1939, a new 'Home Service' replaced the former National and Scottish Programmes. It was broadcast throughout Britain on just two wavelengths: 391.1 and 449.1 metres. Conveniently, for Scottish listeners, 391.1m was the same wavelength used by the former Scottish Regional Programme, meaning that listeners did not need to retune their sets.

The former National Programme wavelength of 261.1 metres was used to broadcast propaganda to listeners in European countries.

1950 wavelength changes

As a result of the European radio wavelength plan agreed upon at the Copenhagen Conference in September 1949, the following wavelength changes were introduced in Scotland from 15 March 1950, promising clearer reception for many listeners:

  • Scottish Home Service 371m (391.9)
  • Light Programme: 247m (261.1) — affecting listeners in Central Scotland, Moray Firth and Aberdeen.
  • Third Programme: 464m (514.6); 194m (203.5) in Dundee. [5]

Although the new wavelengths were shorter than the ones they replaced, the power of nearly all transmitters was boosted to compensate.[6]

Scottish Home Service: Brechin/Montrose and Dumfries

In 1951 the BBC authorised the construction of 12 low-power transmitters to improve Home Service reception in the worst areas of Britain. Two of these transmitters were allocated to Scotland, one for the Brechin/Montrose area, and one for Dumfries.[7]

Scottish Home Service: Dumfries transmitter

On 24 December 1952, in order to meet complaints of poor Scottish Home Service reception in the South of Scotland, the BBC put into service a small 500-watt caravan transmitter at Mouswald, six miles south of Dumfries. The transmitter operated only from 5pm until 11.5pm, when the Home Service closed down.[8]


  1. Belfast was later added as a ninth station in September 1924.
  2. BBC Year Book 1933, 41.
  3. ‘Radio exhibition in Glasgow’, Glasgow Herald, 29 September 1932, 3.
  4. 'Broadcasting in Scotland', Glasgow Herald, 11 June 1936, 10.
  5. 'BBC Wave-length Changes: Scots Listeners Affected', Glasgow Herald, 8 March 1950, 6.
  6. 'A Radio Commentary: New Wavelengths', Glasgow Herald, 17 March 1950, 3.
  7. Melville Dinwiddie, Minutes of the meeting of the Scottish Advisory Council, 12 June 1951, BBC WAC R6/188.
  8. 'New Transmitter', Glasgow Herald, 24 December 1952, 4.