BBC Radio 1 is broadcast 24 hours a day throughout the UK on 97-99 FM. It is the premier popular music station in the UK and aims to encompass all styles of music. As with all BBC broadcasting it has no advertising and is funded by the license fee.
Back in the 1960s the only popular pop music stations were the pirate stations broadcast from offshore on ships. The government cracked down on these stations with the Marine Offences Act of August 14th, 1967 and they had made it clear to the BBC that they wanted a station to fill the void that would exist following the shut down of the pirate stations. The station was launched on September 30, 1967 broadcasting on 247 AM with Tony Blackburn playing Flowers in the Rain by The Move on his show Daily Disc Delivery (listen to the launch - http://www.bbc.co.uk/thenandnow/history/radio1b.ram). It was not however a completely separate station as many of its shows were actually Radio 2 shows broadcast on both stations. This was partly due to the legal limit on the amount of "needle time" allowed each week, only 35.5 hours. There was some feeling against this from the public and some felt that the pirate stations had been better.
Despite early reservations from the public the station proved to be a huge success. They played mostly pop music during the daytime and then focussed on new and up and coming bands and artist in the evenings, a formula that remains successful to this day. In 1973 the Radio 1 roadshow was launched by Alan Freeman. The roadshow was a series of live concerts every summer that were broadcast live on Radio 1. They are still big summer events. In 1988 Radio 1 got an FM frequency, 97-99, after the police had moved off the 100Mhz frequency. In May 1991 the moved to 24 hour broadcasting and in 1994 the AM broadcast was shut off as the AM range was opened up to commercial radio stations.
In 1993 John Birt became Director General of the BBC and he decided that Radio 1 needed a revamp. He felt it was too similar to the commercial competition and there had been criticism from the music press that the station had become uninspired, unadventurous and too mainstream. Birt appointed Matthew Bannister as Controller of Radio 1 to bring about the changes he wanted. Bannister implemented the Radio 1 playlist, a list of songs which all DJs had to play during the day. The current playlist is divided into A, B and C categories and the DJs have to play a certain number of tracks from the playlist in their shows. In the evenings specialist shows prevailed with the likes of John Peel. The new direction resulted in 15 DJs leaving and the entire station being reinvented. The disorganisation that followed resulted in listening figures dropping from 16.5 million in February 1993 to 11 million in the last quarter on 1994.
Since the BBC has a mandate from the government to cater to as much of the public as possible Radio 1 is necessarily a diverse station and this is one of its strengths. It managed to keep up fairly well with the latest trends, introducing the Dreem Team to cater for the UK Garage audience and Tim Westwood and Trevor Nelson to cater for the hip hop and R&B scenes. Its daytime radio is very strong focussing on personalities with DJs like Mark and Lard and Chris Moyles. One of its great advantages is the variation of music it has on all evenings, including weekday evenings. Kiss FM, supposedly an underground hip hop and black music station for London simply shoves the dance and hip hop top forty on from about 9pm onwards on weekdays whereas on Radio 1 you will find gems like John Peel and Gilles Peterson.
My favourite Radio 1 DJs are:
- Chris Moyles - 3pm - 5:45pm every weekday. His music is just the regular playlist stuff but he is an excellent comedian. The studio atmosphere is good with the write, Comedy Dave, the producer Will, and the assistant, Thin Lizzie, all taking part in the who. He will sometimes have guests in but they are not a mainstay of his show. In general it is excellent light banter for a afternoon's listening.
- John Peel - 10pm - Midnight Tuesday to Thursday. Without going into too much detail John Peel provides a huge range of music from electronic experimental to reggae to 50s swing. He as a regular slot on his programme called Pig's Big 78' (Pig is his wife's nickname) which comprises of a recording selected by his wife from her record collection. Normally a jaunty little foxtrot of the like. He is also excellent to go to sleep to as his calm voice can be heard mumbling about where he left the record that was supposed to come next.
- Chris Goldfinger - Midnight - 2am Saturday nights. This is a reggae and dancehall show. It is hard to find a good reggae show on UK radio, and this is the only national reggae show in the UK. Kiss has a Sunday night affair but Goldfinger has an excellent selection of tracks combined with some decent interviews and reasonable banter.
For a full list of all current Radio 1 DJs go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/djs/.
The official Radio 1 website can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1. It is pretty decent and has good scheduling. Many of the DJs also provide the track listings for their shows which is great if you can't remember names well. Some DJs make better use of the site than others but it's worth a look. The only annoying thing is that it has a redesign every six months which means you have to put up with a new horrible colour scheme having just acclimatised to the previous one.