Get set for radio changes… 

14 July 2023

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On 23 November 1978 a new international agreement on long and medium wave broadcasting comes into operation. The last time governments met to allocate these air waves was in 1948.

Since then there has been such an increase in the number of radio stations throughout the world, especially in Europe, that a new agreement became vital.

At the moment there are 1,450 transmitters in Europe. In November there could be 2,700. With so many new transmitters coming into operation at increased power the BBC has had to work out new ways of giving UK listeners the best possible service. Reception in some areas will improve, with £3,000,000 [£15m in today’s money, allowing for inflation – Ed] being spent on new transmitters. Elsewhere the aim has been to reduce the likely levels of interference, particularly after dark.


Ways that radio dials are marked

Life is made more difficult because tuning positions can be expressed in a number of ways and no two radio sets seem to have dials that look alike. The dials shown on this page have numbers going across from left to right, but just as many sets have numbers going up and down or even round in a circle.


Metres and Kilohertz

Some dials are marked in metres (m or mtrs) others are marked in kilohertz (kHz). Either can be used to show tuning positions for the medium and long wave- bands and very often both are shown, as they are here. Metres and kHz are just different ways of measuring.


VHF and FM

For the vhf waveband, tuning positions are always expressed in megahertz (MHz). Some sets use FM to mark the vhf waveband. Others use vhf/FM. It amounts to the same thing.

The changes only affect BBC network services, Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4 on medium and long wave.☆

The tuning positions for vhf services are unchanged. Radio Scotland, Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and Radio Ulster are not affected. Most BBC Local Radio stations remain the same, and their frequencies are given below.


Main new frequencies from 23 November 1978


BBC Radio 1

Radio 1 will have two new tuning positions both on the medium waveband. 1053 kHz/285m and 1089 kHz/275m are to be found close together on the dial and not too far away from the old position 247m. Which one you use will depend on where you live. Try them both to see which is better for your area.

In the Bournemouth area there’s a special frequency 1485 kHz/202m.


Tuning guide for Radio 1


BBC Radio 2

The new tuning positions for Radio 2 will involve a change from long wave to medium wave. On most sets this means pushing a button or moving a switch to get medium wave, usually marked MW or AM, before tuning along the dial. There are two frequencies 693 kHz/433m and 909 kHz/330m. Try them both to discover which gives better reception in your area. Radio 2 remains on vhf between 88 and 91 MHz for listening in both mono and stereo. After dark listening on vhf may be preferable. In parts of Scotland where Radio 2 is already on medium wave, it moves to a new position on the same waveband.


Tuning guide for Radio 2


BBC Radio 3

The new tuning position for Radio 3 will be 1215 kHz/247m, previously used for Radio 1. In spite of the changes, in some areas the reception on this frequency may still be poor, particularly after dark. In this case listening on vhf is strongly recommended. The vhf frequency remains unchanged, between 90 and 92.5 MHz, for listening in both mono and stereo.


Tuning guide for Radio 3


BBC Radio 4

The new tuning position for Radio 4 will move from the medium wave to the long waveband. It is on 200 kHz/1500m long wave, the old Radio 2 position. Details of areas where Radio 4 remains on MW are given overleaf. To switch to the long waveband either press the button or move the switch to the position marked long wave (LW or L) before tuning along the dial.

The vhf service for Radio 4 in England remains between 92 and 95 MHz for listening in both mono and stereo. At certain times Radio 4 broadcasts different programmes on vhf, such as Schools Radio. Details can be found in Radio Times.


Tuning guide for Radio 4


Getting the best reception

Where there are alternative frequencies do try them out to see which gives the best reception in your area.

When listening to a portable on medium wave and long wave, turning the radio round can improve reception.

For vhf, portable radios have a telescopic rod aerial, which must be fully extended. Keeping the aerial straight up in the air is seldom the most effective way of using it. Try putting it at an angle and swinging it round slowly as you listen, to identify the position that gives the best sound. You can also try putting the radio in different parts of the room and at different angles to discover the best place for it. It is usually, though not always, best to raise the set as far as possible above floor level.


Will I need to buy a new set?

That depends on which programmes you listen to and where you live. Radio 4 listeners will need sets with long wave or vhf. At certain times of the day Radio 4 carries additional programmes on vhf so it is better to have a set with both long wave and vhf.

Radio 3 listeners in areas where the medium wave reception is poor are strongly recommended to listen on vhf. To get an indication of the standard of Radio 3 reception you may expect in your area after 23 November, tune in to Radio 1 which at present broadcasts on 1215 kHz/247m.

In Cambridge, Radio 3 will be on 1197kHz/251m.

To get the best from all BBC Radio Services throughout the day and at night, listeners need to be able to receive medium wave, long wave and vhf.

Remember – medium and long wave reception is usually much better during the daytime than after dark. VHF reception does not change in this way. It should give you better quality sound and clearer reception.


Local variations where Radio 4 remains on medium wave

There will be additional medium wave services for Radio 4 in the following areas:

Aberdeen 1449kHz/207m
Carlisle 1485kHz/202m
Tyneside 603kHz/498m
Northern Ireland 720kHz/417m
South West
Barnstaple 801kHz/375m
Exeter 990kHz/303m
Plymouth 855kHz/351m
Redruth 756kHz/397m
Torbay 1458kHz/206m


BBC Local Radio Stations


kHz m VHF MHz
Birmingham 1458 206 95.6
Blackburn 855 351 96.4
Brighton 1485 202 95.3
Bristol 1548 194 95.5
Carlisle 756 397 95.6
1458 206
Cleveland 1548 194 96.6
Derby 1116 269 96.5
Humberside 1485 202 96.9
Leeds (subject to confirmation) 774 388 92.4
Leicester 1584 189 95.1
London 1458 206 94.9
Manchester 1458 206 95.1
Medway 1035 290 96.7
Merseyside 1485 202 95.8
Newcastle 1458 206 95.4
Nottingham 1521 197 95.4
Oxford 1485 202 95.2
Sheffield 1035 290 97.4
Solent 999 300 96.1
(in Bournemouth) 1359 221
Stoke-on-Trent 1503 200 96.1


The new frequencies are in bold type.☆


Issued by: Radio Changes, British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, London W1A 4WW


A Transdiffusion Presentation

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You Say

2 responses to this article

Mark Jarvis 14 July 2023 at 12:48 pm

When did London get Radio 4 on AM this being the initial frequency for LBC when it came on air in October 1973

Russ J Graham 15 July 2023 at 6:58 pm

15 November 1979, according to this PDF.

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