23rd November 1978

BBC Radio Scotland goes on air

BBC Radio Scotland became a full-time fixture on the nation’s airwaves on 23 November 1978, although the corporation had already been broadcasting nationally relevant opt-outs from its UK-wide Radio 4 service under the BBC Scotland Radio 4 brand.

The Glasgow Herald explained what the new opt-out service comprised on 18 December 1973: “Scottish listeners to Radio 4 will have a news bulletin with particular relevance to Scottish affairs every hour, plus a two-hour current affairs programme incorporating the relevant parts of the present ‘Today’ programme on Radio 4 beginning at 6.45am.”

Preparation for BBC Radio Scotland

In tandem with launching the 1973 opt-out, the BBC embarked on a plan to build three new FM waveband transmitters to improve propagation of the service. This would lead, indirectly, to the roll out of the fully fledged BBC Radio Scotland in 1978 when increased transmission capacity and Radio 4’s nationwide move to long wave meant both it and the Scottish service could run side by side.

BBC Radio Scotland launched on 370 metres on the medium wave band, as well as on FM, while Radio 4 was broadcast on 1500m long wave.

Scottish content more than doubled

The move, as reported by The Stage on 23 November 1978, meant that Scotland’s locally relevant programming on the network was increasing from around 40 hours per week to 100 hours per week and, “to provide the staff for this 154 per cent increase in output, [controller] John Pickles and his senior staff have considered 4,000 applications for the 80 or so new posts available, both permanent and freelance.”

The launch of BBC Radio Scotland was a landmark moment and one which meant, said The Stage, “for the first time Scots listeners will be given a direct choice throughout most of the day between a purely Scottish service and one originated south of the border. The willingness of the BBC’s central management to provide the funds for Radio Scotland to go [a]head as an urgent priority was based on the assumption that the Scots would make the right choice.”

Radio bingo

BBC Radio Scotland’s launch line-up included Ken Bruce on Saturday mornings. Bruce would later go on to become a long-running anchor of the national schedule on BBC Radio 2, as well as being the UK’s radio commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest. And, said the Glasgow Herald of 7 November 1978, “Tom Ferrie will be presenting Scotland’s first radio bingo game, calling the numbers with listeners marking their cards for a prize of £25 worth of premium bonds.” Ferrie’s first guest was the comedian Billy Connolly.

On launch day, the Aberdeen Evening Express reported that the station “went on air today with a new image. The station has stayed on the same wavelength – but without the heavy load of programmes previously taken from radio 4. In their place is the station’s own home produced format of magazine-style programmes, local news and pop music.” That night, Scotland’s BBC radio and television services simulcast an opening night programme from Kelvin Hall in Glasgow.

BBC Radio Scotland’s home is the BBC headquarters building at Glasgow’s Pacific Quay.



Other events that occured in November

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