19 December 1932: BBC World Service begins

The first royal Christmas message by George V gave the fledgling World Service an early boost six days after it was founded in 1932.

In 1922, the BBC began regular broadcasts to radio owners in Britain. These were an instant hit. A year later, work began in the US on using shortwave radio signals to increase the distance over which radio signals could be carried. This led to calls for the BBC to begin broadcasts to other countries, and eventually the British Empire Service was set up to send broadcasts to Britain's overseas colonies.

Then-director Sir John Reith warned that the programmes "will neither be very interesting nor very good". The weekly budget stretched to ten hours of broadcasts a day, mainly repeats from the main service. But the new service scored an early success when King George V delivered the first royal Christmas Message six days after it launched in 1932.

By 1933, a tenfold increase in the budget allowed the development of more original content, including regular news bulletins. Broadcasting hours were extended, and foreign language services were added, starting with Arabic in 1938. By the outbreak of World War II, the World Service was broadcasting in seven languages. To reflect this broader focus, it was renamed the Overseas Service in November 1939 (and became the World Service in 1965). Funding was taken over by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Today, rivalry from the internet, domestic radio, and the falling popularity of shortwave radio have all increased pressure on the World Service. Several services have been dropped or scaled back. 

Recommended

High street giant HSBC to close 114 branches
Personal finance

High street giant HSBC to close 114 branches

HSBC is to shut the doors of 114 branches as more customers switch to online banking.
30 Nov 2022
House prices expected to fall by 5% in 2023
House prices

House prices expected to fall by 5% in 2023

House prices could fall by 5% next year as rising mortgage rates weigh on buyer demand.
30 Nov 2022
The best offers for switching banks – get up to £200 free cash
Personal finance

The best offers for switching banks – get up to £200 free cash

Looking to move bank accounts? You can now bag as much as £200 for switching current accounts from two major banks
30 Nov 2022
Stock market crash? This time it’s (slightly) different
Stockmarkets

Stock market crash? This time it’s (slightly) different

The bears expecting a stock market crash have got it wrong, says Max King.
30 Nov 2022

Most Popular

Fan heater vs oil heater – which is cheaper?
Personal finance

Fan heater vs oil heater – which is cheaper?

Sales of portable heaters have soared, as households look to cut their energy costs. But which is better: a fan heater or an oil heater? We put them t…
21 Nov 2022
Wood-burning stove vs central heating ‒ which is cheapest?
Personal finance

Wood-burning stove vs central heating ‒ which is cheapest?

Demand for wood-burning stoves has surged as households try to reduce their heating costs this winter. But how does a wood burner compare with central…
29 Nov 2022
Best regular savings accounts – November 2022
Savings

Best regular savings accounts – November 2022

You can earn an attractive rate on the best regular savings accounts. We tell you the best on the market to take advantage of right now
29 Nov 2022