I have written about some important topics in my time, but this towers over global warming, asteroid hits, Spanish economy, Global Economy, Covid…. BUT, the end of BBC Radio 4 long wave. This has far reaching implications as will be discussed now. I am horrified. The BBC have stated that as at 2024, The Home service AKA Radio 4 will start to be decommissioned.
In the ‘20’s the BBC had set up two styles of broadcasting stations: National and Regional. The National Service broadcasted general material to keep Britain in check, quality character building stuff. (bit like it is failing to do at the moment), whilst the 6 Regional services transmitted material tailored for the region, complete with local dialects in case the listeners couldn’t understand English. Jordies, Brummies, strange Scottish folk and so on. At the outbreak of WW2, it was decided to combine these stations into one, and was called the Home Service. One reason for this was to limit the number of radio transmitters around the UK, who’s signals could be used as triangulation points for those nasty German bombers. It made broadcasting to the populous much more simple.
After WW2, the BBC reinstated its regional stations and established three Nationals. The “Light program”. This was aimed at those who liked popular music and light hearted material, dance band, comedy etc. The “Third program” was aimed at Doctors, the Upper Class, Bank Managers and alike who liked classical music. Then the “Home Service” to broadcast serious stuff for grown-ups, schools and weather forecasts for our shipping fleet and afternoon plays…
The “Home Service” transmitter moved from Chelmsford to its new site in Droitwich, Midlands in the late ‘20s. When you are driving on the motorways around the area, you will see the 700 foot arrays of long wire aerials. Transmitting originally at 200kHz, 1500mtrs wavelength. The aerial system has largely remained unchanged, apart from maintenance. Because of the low frequency of the signal, it’s very high radiated power (some 500,000 watts) and aerial design, the signal covers a good 4/5th of the UK and beyond. Brilliant. The problem we now have however is the following; The devices used to power the aerial systems are a couple of very large substantial valves. These were originally hand-made and standing 4 foot tall. Over the years, the stock of these valves has been depleted and we are now down to the last few sets. The operating life time of these valves is around 2-6 years. The BBC has bought up the last remaining stock from around the globe. The cost of making replacement valves would run into quite a few shillings as would the redesign and building of a new long wave transmitter antenna array to cater for different devices. Lesser quality valves could be used, but the associated risk of a high voltage flash-overs, common at the high-power rating required, could render the aerial system useless. So, the days are now numbered.
So, why is it so important the Long wave Radio 4 (Home Service renamed in ’67) service continues? Well, several reasons; a) The Westminster and Parliament programs, without which, Britain would lose its identity and dissolve into anarchy, worse than it is at time of writing. B) Test match Cricket, without this, gentlemen would not have a reason to drink warm beer and the breweries would go out of business. c) Listen With Mother, Musical Movement, with this gone, children would leave home at the age of 4 and start mugging people…… d) Now the Shipping Forecast, along with all those great names….Dogger, German Bite… If our fisherman couldn’t hear the sea conditions, sink and or would be bumping into those nasty French fishermen. Bang goes our fish and chips. More importantly, the forecast sign off tune “Sailing by” composed by Ronald Binge would never be heard again. Have a listen, it’s a lovely simple waltz (if you listen 2/3rds of the way through, the bass player plays a wrong note and then misses the next bar!). A lot of equipment, clocks and time keeping systems (well, they used to, rely on the Radio 4 frequency of 198kHz as a reference signal. If this goes missing, half the UK will be late for work, employees will get sacked and the unemployment rate will be through the roof. Also, what you don’t realize, is that the Greenwich Mean Time “pips” will no longer be accurate. These are generated by an atomic clock system and broadcast by radio in real-time., over radio waves. With now radio, you will hear these via the interweb, so can be seconds out-of-date.
So, joking aside, it will be a sad day when the Home Service goes quiet. If you have some 4 foot transmitting valves in you shed, let me know and ill do you a jolly good deal. Take care and be aware…
Seth Pittham. Zeta Services. Working hard, for you.