FM broadcasting in the UK

FM broadcasting in the UK

FM broadcasting began in the United Kingdom on May 2 1955 when the BBC started an FM service broadcasting the Light Programme, the Third Programme and the Home Service to the south east of England. [ [ UK RADIO - A Brief History - Mike Smith] ] There are now over 40 BBC and over 250 commercial FM stations broadcasting in the UK. [List of radio stations in the United Kingdom]


The BBC began using FM radio in 1955, but at that time AM broadcasting predominated. The BBC's main station Radio 1 left mediumwave only in 1994, but had been using FM full-time for six years previously, part-time before 1988. All but one of the BBC's analogue services, including Radios 1, 2, 3, and 4 and BBC Local Radio are provided on FM, although Radio 4 uses mediumwave in some areas, longwave for national broadcasting; Local Radio broadcasts opt-outs on medium wave. The only analogue service not to use FM is Radio Five Live.

Commercial broadcasting

Legal commercial broadcasting began in the UK in 1973, with the launch of LBC, though offshore pirate radio stations operated in the 1960s to 1990s, usually from ships anchored off the coast of Britain.

Early licenses were granted to wide-area stations, such as Capital Radio which served London and the home counties. Later more local stations were introduced. There is also one national commercial radio station, Classic FM.

From the very beginning, commercial broadcasting has had a base on FM, but the frequencies in use now were previously unavailable because of the allocation for police radio, which has converted to digital. For example, Marcher Sound 103.4 was on 95.4 MHz until 1988, when a frequency review allowed for the frequency change. The FM service was always simulcasted with mediumwave, until 1989–1990, when the IBA asked radio stations to end simulcasting, so another service (typically a Gold format) went to AM, and the regular service continued on FM. It was before this, FM became the preferred method of listening.

Frequency allocation

From 1955 the band 88.0 - 94.6 MHz was used for three BBC national networks. Over the next 40 years, the band grew piecemeal to 87.5 - 108.0 MHz, allowing for five national networks and many local stations.

The current frequency plan is based on an ITU agreement made in Geneva in 1984. [cite web | url = | title = VHF Broadcast Re-planning Final Report | date = 2000-06-02 | accessdate = 2008-09-04] The table below shows which kind of stations are the main users of each part of the band. There are many exceptions. Community radio stations and RSLs tend to be fitted into any locally-available position.


The UK permits Radio Data System (RDS) subcarriers.


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