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2 September 2014
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BBC Scotland - The Wireless to the Web

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History

In 2003, as we looked back at 80 years of BBC Scotland and prepared to move our Glasgow headquarters to new specially-built premises in Pacific Quay, BBC Scotland's Controller, John McCormick, announced a legacy -

"In 1935, BBC Scotland moved Broadcasting House from West George Street to North Park House in Queen Margaret Drive, a site partly chosen due to the attraction of the nearby tennis courts, gardens and bowling greens! Of course, as our services increased, those attractions became the victims of our success. We moved along Hamilton Drive, demolishing the tennis courts, gardens and bowling greens. It's thanks to these premises that we've become the broadcasting centre of Scotland and, as we prepare to leave Queen Margaret Drive to set up a new home in Pacific Quay in 2007, we will make amends. The Mackintosh Building and North Park House will be restored to their former glory and our neighbours will no longer have to suffer the crowds of children on Saturday mornings! An art consultant is being engaged to create a piece of public artwork in Queen Margaret Drive as a legacy to BBC Scotland's time there."

The story of BBC Scotland from 1923 - 2003:
On 6 March 1923, Station 5SC began broadcasting from an attic in Rex House, 202 Bath Street, Glasgow as part of the British Broadcasting Company. This small space often housed an orchestra, pipe band, choir, solo singers, actors and speech-makers as BBC Scotland took shape, sending news, current affairs, sport, religious addresses and entertainment into people's homes.

Lord Reith, the BBC's founder, chose Glasgow as the Scottish starting point, due to the size of the potential audience, but by the end of 1924 'relay stations' had also opened in Belmont Street, Aberdeen (2BD), Lochee Road, Dundee (2DE) and Edinburgh (2EH). Edinburgh's offices and studio were located in the back premises of a music shop at 79 George Street, broadcasting local afternoon and Children's Hour productions and evening programmes on Friday nights. The output from stations 2BD and 2EH were clearly picked up in the United States during International Radio Week in November 1924!

Glasgow's base subsequently moved to Blythswood Square and then onto West George Street as the station expanded. In 1929 it was decided that BBC Scotland's headquarters should be in Edinburgh's Queen Street. These premises opened on St. Andrew's Day 1930 and remained Edinburgh's Broadcasting House until relocating to The Tun in April 2002, to tie in with the creation of the Holyrood Parliament.

The '30s had a promising start with new serial The McFlannels and regular comedy shows. On 1 September 1939, two days before the declaration of World War II, Scotland's output was merged with the BBC Home Service from all transmitters. The Scottish Home Service resumed normal service on 29 July 1945.

The Third Programme broadcast across the UK for five hours each evening live from the first Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 and morning recitals were aired on the Scottish Home Service between Music While You Work and Workers' Playtime. Edinburgh's Queen Street studios became home to many foreign reporters as networks across the world were eager to feature such a high-profile event. The silver jubilee of the BBC's arrival in Scotland in 1948 was celebrated with the 'BBC At Home' exhibition in Broadcasting House and the Radio Times featured birthday messages from VIPs. Edinburgh similarly celebrated in 1949 with 'BBC At Work'.

Television had a sombre start in Scotland with the broadcast of the funeral of King George VI on 15 February 1952. Four weeks later the Kirk O'Shotts transmitter aired Television Comes To Scotland from Edinburgh's large music studio to the whole of the UK. The show featured a prayer of dedication, a vote of thanks from the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, followed by ten minutes of Scottish country dancing. It didn't go down well in London with the Controller commenting, "Speeches dreadful. This sort of television dullness is most depressing." Luckily, the audience was won over with programmes such as the first TV play, JM Barrie's The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, news and parliamentary coverage and the first television outside broadcast at the Edinburgh Festival Tattoo.

By the mid-60s TV coverage had reached over 97% of the population and radio 96.1%. The Great Glen Chain, a ribbon of links and transmitters across Scotland, showed that the BBC was earnestly extending its services to outlying and thinly populated areas. It was an expensive business.

The Blackhill transmitters brought BBC2 to Scotland in July 1966 and the BBC launched regular colour transmissions in July 1967. A mobile control room allowed Scotland to make its first colour programme, Ring In The New, for that year's Hogmanay. Glasgow's Studio A was upgraded to produce colour TV in 1971.

Following the creation of several new stations, Radio Highland, Radio Aberdeen, Radio Orkney, Radio Shetland and Radio nan Eilean, the first national radio station was launched. Radio Scotland opened with a televised ceremony at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall in November 1978.

In 1980, to celebrate 50 years of broadcasting from Edinburgh's Queen Street studios, Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland was televised, pioneering breakfast television. The hit of the '80s was undoubtedly comedy drama Tutti Frutti. Written by John Byrne it brought home a record-breaking six BAFTAs out of 13 nominations and launched the careers of Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson.

Radio Scotland won National Station of the Year at the Sony Awards in 1994, the same year as BBC Scotland produced its first feature film, Small Faces. The following year Peter Capaldi won an Oscar for Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life, a BBC Scotland Tartan Short film. Dame Judi Dench received an Oscar nomination for Mrs Brown and won a BAFTA for her role in the BBC cinema production in 1997. Popular drama The Crow Road won three BAFTAs in the same year, and Kirsty Wark won Best TV Presenter for Words With Wark.

BBC Scotland's Online department produced some of the earliest BBC websites, Megamag and Activ-8 (to complement the increasing TV output for children) and Wilderness Walks. Now known as BBC Scotland Interactive, the department is responsible for many websites on every topic from sport to Gaelic, education to history and music to entertainment. Upland Limestone for Higher students won the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers best non-book award in 2001 and Scotland On Film, launched in 2002 to accompany the popular TV series, holds a massive archive of audio and video and memories from the public on all aspects of 20th Century life in Scotland.

BBC Scotland now makes a wide variety of programmes for numerous networks - the five network radio stations, the terrestrial TV channels and digital stations such as BBC FOUR, CBeebies and the CBBC channel.

Delve into the other sections of the site to find out more about BBC Scotland's history, by watching and listening to our archive clips, reading our staff's anecdotes and in our photo gallery.



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