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75 Years

The Italian Service interviewing people in Italy (l) The BBC's first director general, Sir John Reith, and the BBC chairman, JH Whitley, open the Empire Service

Historic moments from the 1930s


1932 - The Empire Service is founded

John Reith
The BBC Empire Service was originally intended for English speakers around the British Empire. King George V explained the remit of the station in his first ever Christmas message, and the BBC's founder, John Reith, warned listeners to keep their expectations low.

 Listen to a highlight from 1932

1933 - Franklin D Roosevelt speaks on radio

Franklin D Roosevelt
By 1933 politicians around the world were learning to use the mass media. In depression-era America, the newly-elected President, Franklin D Roosevelt, saw radio as a means to reach out to a demoralised nation.

 Listen to a highlight from 1933

1934 - Adolf Hitler utilises the media

Adolf Hitler (Press Association)
Adolf Hitler understood the potential of the media, and he hired a gifted young filmmaker, Leni Reifenstahl, to chart his rise. Her films were beautifully shot glorifications of the Nazi ideal; viewers were meant to be in no doubt as how powerful Hitler had become.

 Listen to a highlight from 1934

1935 - A new radio station in West Africa

1930s radio
The BBC's Empire Service was expanding in all directions during the 1930s. A new radio station in Accra opened up West Africa to voices from London. The governor of the Gold Coast - now Ghana - was ecstatic.

 Listen to a highlight from 1935

1936 - King Edward VIII abdicates

King Edward VII (Press Association)
Reluctantly the British Royal family began to embrace broadcasting in the 1930s, with Christmas speeches and appearances in cinema newsreels. When King Edward VIII had to abdicate because he wanted to marry a divorcee he used radio to explain himself to the public.

 Listen to a highlight from 1936

1937 - The Hindenburg disaster

Hindenburg airship (Associated Press)
American reporter Herb Morrison took a prototype radio van to watch the airship the Hindenburg coming in to land. His words as he witnessed the subsequent tragedy became some of the most famous in broadcasting history.

 Listen to a highlight from 1937

1938 - Orson Welles causes hysteria

Orson Welles
Everyone listened to the radio in the 1930s, and most believed what they heard. Following Orson Welles' broadcast of War of the Worlds, people across America took to the streets in panic, and police stations were mobbed by hysterical listeners.

 Listen to a highlight from 1938

1939 - Britain goes to war

Neville Chamberlain
When Hitler's armies invaded Poland - war engulfed Europe. The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain used the BBC to tell the people that Britain was at war with Germany. The BBC was now part of the war effort.

Listen to a highlight from 1939

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