diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 22, 2023

If you're of a certain age you'll likely have spent a lot of time listening to radio on 247m medium wave. This landmark wavelength has carried Radios 1, 2 and 3 in its time, plus more recently Virgin and Absolute Radio, but all programmes ceased on Friday morning and tomorrow it's being switched off for good. Here's a quick history in tribute to a formative frequency.

1948: A conference of European broadcasters held in Copenhagen agrees plans to respace/reallocate medium and long wave stations.
15th March 1950: The Copenhagen Plan comes into effect at 2am. The Light Programme remains on 1500m (200kHz) but the BBC can also now use 247m (1214kHz) for a number of low power relay stations including Brookmans Park, Moorside Edge, Westerglen and Burghead. The first programme to be broadcast on 247m is the 9am news followed by Housewives' Choice with Robin Richmond. [LIGHT PROGRAMME: 17 years]
30th September 1967: The Light Programme evolves into Radio 2 and stays on 1500m LW. Meanwhile Radio 1 launches on 247m, kicking off at 7am with Tony Blackburn playing Flowers In The Rain by The Move. Jingles make a big thing of the new wavelength (247... music power!) and millions tune their transistor radios. Reception is better during daytime than after dark. [RADIO 1: 11 years]
1975: A conference of European broadcasters held in Geneva agrees plans to respace/reallocate medium and long wave stations. Frequencies will now be multiples of 9kHz.
23rd November 1978: The Geneva Plan comes into effect and all BBC radio stations shuffle around. Radio 1 switches to 275m and 285m requiring a completely new set of jingles. This vacates 247m which is taken over by Radio 3. Technically this now uses 1215kHz rather than 1214kHz, but these frequencies are equivalent to 246.91m and 247.12m respectively which both comfortably round to 247. The first programme to be broadcast is the 7am news followed by Overture and Morning Concert. Most Radio 3 listeners are listening on FM so the scratchy medium wave reception is less of an issue. Test Match Special will be a 247m staple for several summers. [RADIO 3: 13 years]
29th February 1992: Radio 3 stops broadcasting on medium wave. Its frequency is to be used by a new national commercial station.

30th April 1993: 247m (1215kHz) is the new home of Virgin 1215, a commercial rock station. It won the UK franchise with a consortium owned by Richard Branson, Apax Partners, JP Morgan and Sir David Frost. The station launches at 12:15pm, obviously, playing Born To Be Wild by INXS. The disc jockey on the first programme is Richard Skinner. Chris Evans will keep cropping up. [VIRGIN: 15 years]
28th September 2008: Virgin is rebranded Absolute Radio having been bought out by The Times Group, an Indian company. The first record to be played is "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles. Guitar-based rock predominates. Following acquisition by the Bauer Group in 2013 Absolute spreads onto multiple FM frequencies formerly occupied by independent local radio stations, and also splinters into several decade-based digital stations. 1215 kHz lingers on, but powering the transmitters is expensive and analogue audiences are declining so Bauer eventually ask permission to turn medium wave off. [ABSOLUTE: 14 years]
20th January 2023: At midnight medium wave transmissions end and Absolute becomes a digital-only station. The last song to be broadcast is Absolute Beginners by David Bowie. A 10 minute tribute to 247m is played, featuring clips from the Light Programme, Radio 1, Radio 3, Virgin and Absolute Radio. You can listen to that tribute here or, if you prefer more hissy crackle for medium wave authenticity, here.
23rd January 2023: A closedown loop stating that Absolute Radio "is no longer available on AM" ceases, the transmitters are turned off and seven decades of radio on 247m end. Non-stop Two Four Seven is no more.

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