Around 55 BBC radio stations all aired the same output for three minutes ninety years since the first broadcast from the British Broadcasting Company.
Radio Reunited took place on November 14 at 17:33 GMT – to a potential global audience of 120 million people across every inhabited continent.
The three minute composition, entitled 2LO Calling – was a combination of specially written music, iconic sounds from radio’s past and present, and messages to the future from listeners around the world.
Stations joined up with BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo, who was presenting his show from the Science Museum in London, now home to the original 2LO transmitter on which the first broadcast was made.
2LO Calling opened with the chimes of Big Ben and featured the first ever broadcast from the 2LO transmitter. In addition to the vocal messages which were collected, the chaotic wavelength overload features the No 1 tune at the time – titled Three O’Clock In The Morning. Then followed elements as diverse as a Morse-coded Bertrand Russell, the blackbird and skylark, commentary from the Cameroon election, with Pashto, Danish and Pradeep transmissions, and the pips.
Damon Albarn: “There is a special musicality to some of the vocal messages, which I tried to preserve. The piece is essentially a snapshot of the airwaves, taken over the last two weeks. Added to that, I got to do what I’ve always wanted – to play along with the pips.”
Tim Davie, BBC Acting Director-General, says: “We’re thrilled that Damon Albarn has provided this composition, which helps us mark a piece of radio history, bringing audiences together across the world. After 90 years, it is fantastic to see radio still innovating and maintaining its relevance to listeners.”
But not everyone was happy to accept that November 14th was a date to celebrate:
Revised pedantic point (cough): today is 90th anniversary of British Broadcasting Company, a commercial radio station. #bbc90
— James Cridland (@JamesCridland) November 14, 2012
It is true the BBC started as a commercial company, but was made into a Corporation in 1927. It has also been pointed out that BBC Radio Cymru was the only UK station not to take the broadcast (see the full list below).
The Science Museum is marking the anniversary with a small display featuring part of the original 2LO transmitter that made the first BBC broadcast on 14 November 1922. The display takes visitors back to the time of that first broadcast and will also feature two radios used to receive the BBC’s early broadcasts, a ‘meat-safe’ microphone used in the early BBC Savoy Hill studios and an early copy of the Radio Times from 1923.
The same 2LO transmitter will be shown in its entirety in an exhibition about the development of communication technology, due to open at the Science Museum in 2014.
The BBC stations contributing and taking part in Radio Reunited:
BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1xtra, BBC Radio 2, BBC 6music, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra, BBC Asian Network, BBC Radio 5live, BBC London 94.9, BBC Radio Berkshire, BBC Radio Kent, BBC Oxford, BBC Sussex, BBC Surrey, BBC Radio Solent, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, BBC Essex, BBC Three Counties Radio, BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Radio Suffolk, BBC Newcastle, BBC Tees, BBC Radio Cumbria, BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Humberside, BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Stoke, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, BBC Radio Derby, BBC Hereford & Worcester, BBC Radio Leicester, BBC Lincolnshire, BBC Radio Northampton, BBC Radio Nottingham, BBC Radio Shropshire, BBC WM, BBC Wiltshire, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Cornwall, BBC Radio Devon, BBC Guernsey, BBC Radio Jersey, BBC Somerset, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Foyle, BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Wales and BBC World Service outlets, including English and Arabic services.