The BBC Third Programme was the third national radio network broadcast by the BBC, has since become Radio 3, but was originally known (at least within the BBC) as C. The other two were the Home Service (mainly speech based) and the Light Programme, dedicated to light music, usually cover versions of popular music of the day played by the "in-house" BBC orchestras. The Home Service is now known as Radio 4 and the Light Programme is Radio 2. The Third Programme continued as a separate evening service on the same frequency after the inception of Radio 3 in 1967, but was absorbed into Radio 3 in April 1970.
The Third Programme was dedicated to the discerning or "high-brow" listener providing serious classical music, concerts and plays as well as room for modern composers, and jazz. It was the first station to multifrequency on 909 KHz (MF) and 90.0 to 92.5 MHz (FM). It was the first channel to broadcast in stereo and in quadraphonic (matrix HJ) which enjoyed only short term success. A number of broadcasts were experimental for the engineering department and the listener, for instance one play consisted mainly of sound effects to be listened to wearing headphones only.
After the death of Sir Henry Wood the BBC stepped in to sponsor his Promenade concerts, carrying them live every night on the Third Programme. It initially broadcast for 5 hours a night from 7pm to midnight, then from 07.00 to midnight (although with only the evening output branded as "Third Programme"); now it broadcasts 24 hours a day, following the useful technique commenced in Milan of repeating the day's output late at night.
To improve the quality of outside broadcasts over telephone lines the BBC designed a NICAM style digitisation technique called pulse code modulation running at a sample rate of 14,000 per second per channel. It later designed digital recording machines (transportable) sampling at the same rate. Following the shake up of radio frequencies in 1978 it moved to an inferior medium wave frequency, and left MW altogether in 1992, but retained its FM frequency. Radio 3 is renowned for its quality and quantity of chamber music output, tending to play pieces in its entirety rather than small parts of pieces. It is now available world wide on the Internet and is broadcast digitally throughout the UK.
The ThirdProgramme - 60 Years On 29 September 2006 is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the ThirdProgramme. Radio 3 will be celebrating this anniversary with live concerts and specially commissioned programmes.
Listen to an introduction to the ThirdProgramme by the Director-General, Sir William Haley KCMG
Listen to the planner of the ThirdProgramme, Etienne Amyot in conversation with Lord Montagu.
The BBCThirdProgramme was the third national radio network broadcast by the BBC, has since become Radio 3, but was originally known (at least within the BBC) as C.
The ThirdProgramme continued as a separate evening service on the same frequency after the inception of Radio 3 in 1967, but was absorbed into Radio 3 in April 1970.
Its existence was controversial from the start, partly because of perceived "elitism"-it was sometimes criticised for programmes of "two dons talking" and also for the costs of output relative to a small listener reach.
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