BBC Archive Papers on Broadcasting in Scotland

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-627
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      14 folders typescript material; Access to records in a fragile condition may be restricted.
  • Location
      E95.24; E95.25; E97.42

Scope and Content

The papers are composed of copies of: minutes of the Board of Governors, 1922-1926; incomplete sets of minutes of the Board of Governors, 1927-1962; minutes of the Scottish Advisory Council, 1947-1952; and, minutes of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, 1953-1969, and for 1970 to 1974.

Administrative / Biographical History

Broadcasting in Scotland began in 1923 with the opening of radio stations in Glasgow and Aberdeen, and then in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1924. These were operated by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) formed in 1922 by the producers of wireless sets at the behest of the Postmaster-General. The BBC became a Corporation in 1927.

From its earliest days until 1938, the body was headed by the Scot, John Charles Walsham Reith (1899-1971), later Lord Reith, 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven. Reith went on to head Imperial Airways, the embryonic British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) which latterly became British Airways.

In the early days of broadcasting, centralisation and regional organisation was lacking and each station generated most of its own programmes with Station Directors working very independently. Gradually though, under Reith, the BBC became centralised and the local focus was supplanted by London programming. The shortage of wavelengths had also been a problem and in the early-1930s a high-powered station with 152 metre high masts was opened near Falkirk. The Edinburgh and Glasgow transmitters were closed and Aberdeen became a relay station, though studios in Edinburgh and Glasgow were kept open and were improved.

In 1935 the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was formed in Edinburgh. Indeed, it was Scotland's first full-time professional orchestra. It soon established its reputation under the likes of Sir Alexander Gibson, James Loughran, and Jerzy Maksimiuk.

In 1929, the Scot, John Logie Baird (1888-1946) helped the BBC show its first television picture and his system was built upon in order to transmit 240-line pictures by 1936. Unfortunately for Baird, the BBC then opted for the 410-line process worked on by EMI. No BBC television service began in Scotland however until 1952 and the opening of the Kirk o' Shotts transmitter.

In August 1957 came the programmes of Scottish Television (STV), the first commercial television company to be set up in Scotland under the 1954 Television Act, and covering central Scotland. STV was the baby of Canadian-born media mogul Roy Herbert Thomson (1894-1976), later Lord Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson of Fleet . STV was followed in 1961 by Border Television covering Dumfries and Galloway and North-West England, and then by Grampian Television in 1962 covering Scotland from Fife to Shetland.

Glasgow and the urban culture of central Scotland dominates Scottish radio and television broadcasting, though Gaelic-language based programming is also integrated into both BBC and independent television schedules.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance. Material deposited by BBC for the use of researchers.

Acquisition Information

Material acquired May 1995, Accession no. E95.24 and E95.25., and in July 1997, Accession no. E97.42.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Conditions Governing Use

BBC owns the copyright of this material. Prior permission of the BBC is to be sought for the reproduction of any papers. Permission to publish material deriving from the papers should be sought from the BBC, and relevant portions should also be submitted to the BBC before publication.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

For other unpublished papers: BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Park, Reading RG4 8TZ.