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22 July 2014
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Gift to nation marks BBC's 80th anniversary

The BBC is celebrating its 80th anniversary by presenting its original transmitter to the Science Museum as a special gift to the nation.

The handover takes place after a special concert on Thursday (7 November 2002) featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

The BBC, in conjunction with Crown Castle International (who are now responsible for the BBC's terrestrial transmissions), will hand over its first transmitter - the 2LO - to the Science Museum, so that it can be fully restored and, in future, displayed for the benefit of the nation.

The transmitter was made by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in 1922.

It takes its name from the number of the Post Office broadcasting licence issued to Marconi to operate an experimental radio station for London, and it was the first transmitter to be used by the BBC - then the British Broadcasting Company - when it was formed later the same year.

The company grew quickly, and 2LO was overtaken by more powerful transmitters in 1925.

It survives today thanks to the efforts of BBC engineers who found it in pieces in the basement of a transmitter station at Brookmans Park in the 1950s.

It was last exhibited in 1992 - the BBC's 70th anniversary year - when it was part of The Greatest Show on Earth display at Broadcasting House.

It has been in the care of Crown Castle International since 1997, when the BBC's terrestrial transmitter network was sold off.

BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies and Peter Abery, Chief Executive of Crown Castle, will jointly present 2LO to the Science Museum.

It will be received by Lord Puttnam, a trustee of the Science Museum.

BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies said: "Future generations should be able to share what is a fascinating piece of early 21st century technology.

"We also want them to understand its significance in the development of our broadcasting system, which is held up as a model for the world. So I can't think of a more appropriate home for 2LO."

Dr John Griffiths, Senior Curator of Media Technologies at the Science Museum, said: "The 2LO radio transmitter was there at the birth of the BBC in 1922 - it is truly an icon of broadcasting history.

"Fortunately it has survived and the Science Museum is proud to acquire such an important piece of our nation's heritage for the national collections.

"It will be restored by Science Museum experts with a view to put it on display for future generations to marvel at."

Notes to Editors

2LO was built by the Marconi wireless Telegraph Company in May 1922, and in its time it was a marvel of engineering.

It is huge, measuring some six metres in length, compared to the modern equivalent, which is no larger than a suitcase.

But, in terms of its capability, it was tiny and it had a range of only 30 to 40 miles.

Initially it reached a handful of crystal set hobbyists, but within a few months it had proved that a regular radio service could drive radio take-up, and by the time the British Broadcasting Company was formed in November 1922, it had 30,000 listeners.

Records of the earliest broadcasts show just how much there was to learn about the nature of broadcasting, as well as about the technology.

The Post Office - the broadcasting authority at the time - was so nervous about radio that no music was allowed, and it would not permit the station to broadcast for more than seven minutes at a stretch.

That would allow the authority to interject to correct any misinformation that had been broadcast, or even to announce the closure of the station in the event of a serious breach (No such intervention was ever made).

And the first news bulletin from the British Broadcasting Company was read twice - once at normal speed and then again more slowly, so listeners could make notes.



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