Radio Times is a British weekly magazine which provides radio and television listings. It was the world's first broadcast listings magazine when it was founded in 1923 by John Reith, then general manager of the British Broadcasting Company (from 1927 the British Broadcasting Corporation).
Christmas 2005 double issue
|Categories||TV and radio listings magazine|
|Circulation||577,087 (January – June 2018)|
|First issue||28 September 1923|
|Company||BBC Magazines (1937–2011)|
Immediate Media Company (since 2011)
|Based in||London, England|
It was published entirely in-house by BBC Magazines from 1937 until 2011 when the BBC Magazines division was merged into Immediate Media Company. In 2017 it was bought by the German media group Hubert Burda.
History and publication
Radio Times was first issued on 28 September 1923 for the price of 2d, carrying details of BBC wireless programmes (newspapers at the time boycotted radio listings, fearing that increased listenership might decrease their sales). It included a 'Message to "listeners"' by the BBC's chairman, Lord Pease.
Initially, Radio Times was a combined enterprise between the British Broadcasting Company and the publisher George Newnes, who type-set, printed and distributed the magazine. In 1925 the BBC assumed full editorial control, but printing and distribution could not begin in-house until 1937. The Radio Times established a reputation for using leading writers and illustrators, and the covers from the special editions are now collectable design classics.
In 1928, Radio Times announced a regular series of 'experimental television transmissions by the Baird process' for half an hour every morning. The launch of the first regular 405-line television service by the BBC was reflected with television listings in the Radio Times London edition of 23 October 1936. Thus Radio Times became the first television listings magazine in the world. Initially only two pages in each edition were devoted to television. However, on 8 January 1937 the magazine published a lavish photogravure supplement and by September 1939, there were three pages of television listings.
Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939 and television broadcasting ceased. Radio listings continued throughout the war with a reduced service, but by 1944, paper rationing meant editions were only 20 pages of tiny print on thin paper. When television resumed, the Radio Times expanded with regional editions were introduced from 29 July 1945. In 1953 the television listings, which had been in the back of the magazine, were placed alongside the daily radio schedules and on 17 February 1957, the television listings were moved to a separate section at the front with radio listings relegated to the back, a day's listings was sometimes spread over up to three double-spreads mixed with advertisements, but this format was phased out when independent publishers were allowed to publish television programme schedules.
Since it published on Tuesdays (its publication day having gradually moved forward from Fridays over many years) and carried listings for the following Saturday through to Friday (this began in 1960, before which issues ran Sunday to Saturday; the changeover meant that Saturday 8 October 1960 was listed twice).
Radio Times ceased carrying cigarette advertising from 5 September 1969. Since Christmas 1969, a double-sized issue has been published each December containing listings for two weeks of programmes. Originally, this covered Christmas and New Year listings, but in some years these appear in separate editions, with the two-week period ending just before New Year. The cover of the 'Christmas Number' (as this issue came to be called) dating from the time when it contained just a single week's listings, usually features a generic festive artwork, atypical for the magazine, which since the 1970s has almost exclusively used as a TVTimes-style photographic covers for all other issues.
On 1 September 1984, web-offset printing was used for the first time, and the magazine became brighter and more colourful, with newsprint and sheets of gravure replaced by black ink and white paper, including the new "today at a glance" for BBC television listings on the right page, and from June 1990 the entire magazine was published in colour.
Before the deregulation of television listings on 1 March 1991, the four weekly listings magazines were as follows:
- Radio Times carried programme listings for BBC radio and television channels as well as BBC Local Radio stations in your regional area since 1967.
- The ITV-published magazine TVTimes (also known as TVTimes Magazine from 3 October 1981 to 6 October 1984), launched on 22 September 1955 carried television programme listings for ITV, and Channel 4 (including S4C in the Wales edition) from November 1982. Prior to 1968, several of the regional ITV companies produced their own listings magazines for Look Westward (Westward Television), The Viewer (Tyne Tees Television), TV Post (Ulster Television), Television Weekly (TWW/WWN/ITSWW/Harlech Television) and TV World (ATV/ABC) are published, before TVTimes went national on 21 September 1968.
- Rupert Murdoch's publication TV Guide (not to be confused with the American magazine of the same name), launched on 25 March 1989 carrying the Astra satellite television listings for Sky Television channels (including Sky One, Sky News, Sky Movies, Eurosport, and from 15 December 1990, they included Sky Arts, The Movie Channel, The Power Station and The Sports Channel on the Marcopolo satellite were added after the BSB's merger), MTV Europe, RTL Véronique (for English language programmes), Screensport, The Children's Channel, Lifestyle and a highlights of BBC, ITV and Channel 4 listings as well. It became a monthly magazine from 1991, and it was later absorbed by Satellite TV Europe magazine in 1992.
- In the Republic of Ireland, Raidió Teilifís Éireann publishes the RTÉ Guide (formerly as the RTV Guide) launched in December 1961 which offers detailed programme listings for RTÉ Television and RTÉ Radio channels, while early on listings were carried for BBC Northern Ireland but were later dropped in 1966 and only RTÉ programme listings were carried until 13 April 1991.
Today both publications carry listings for all major terrestrial, cable and satellite television channels in the United Kingdom and following deregulation, new listings magazines such as IPC Media's What's on TV and Bauer Media Group's TV Quick began to be published.
While the major refresh on 31 August 1991, the highlights section was scrapped and replaced by the number of satellite channels (on the left-hand side) in the daytime listings with "at a glance" (on the right-hand side), then followed by evening's television listings. On 5 September 1992, Radio Times devoted two pages of satellite and cable channels to making up the six pages of television listings for a day:
|Movies||Sky Movies Plus, The Movie Channel, Sky Movies Gold (from 1 October 1992 replacing The Comedy Channel)|
|Sport||Sky Sports, Eurosport, Screensport (absorbed by Eurosport from 1 March 1993)|
|News||Sky News, CNN International|
|Entertainment||Sky One, The Comedy Channel (until 30 September 1992), UK Gold (from 1 November 1992), Lifestyle (until 24 January 1993), The Children's Channel, MTV Europe, TV Asia, The Adult Channel (removed from 19 December 1992)|
|Cable||Bravo, Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, Super Channel, Asiavision, Home Video Channel (removed from 19 December 1992)|
During 1993, Radio Times had several changes as part of the shake-up for radio and television listing pages, starting on 1 January, the VideoPlus+ number codes to cover all the terrestrial and satellite television channels for the first time, then on 5 June, the radio listings is given a radical makeover with highlights on the right-hand side, including Virgin 1215, Classic FM and BBC World Service were added on each pages, and then on 25 September (before marking its 70th anniversary), the daytime television listings with "at a glance" is now on the right page, but however the advertisements were occupied on the left page.
Radio Times' design was refreshed on 3 September 1994 as the television listings had the day's name written vertically with "today's choices" replacing "at a glance" on the left of a page, while the major revamp on 25 September 1999, which also changed the "letters" section beginning on the front pages and primetime television listings from two narrow columns to one wide column, and lasted until 13 April 2001 (shortly before Easter), which saw the new masthead title with the BBC's corporated typeface Gill Sans (until 2004) and the programme pages with eight pages of television listings reverted to having the day running across the top of the page horizontally.
On 26 November 2002, NTL and BBC Worldwide announced a major new agreement that will offer an exclusive and tailored edition of Radio Times to every customer across the United Kingdom for every week it will be delivered directly to subscribers' homes. The special NTL edition of Radio Times replaces the monthly Cable Guide, which ran from September 1986 to December 2002, will contain programme information for NTL channels (including all terrestrial channels) with Front Row's pay-per-view movies and events will also be included. Subscribers will be offered the first four weekly issues of the new title for the same price as the existing monthly magazine, will be delivered free to homes in time for the first programme week of 4 January 2003, both companies will actively and jointly market the new edition.
On 30 October 2004, the programme listings pages have been revamped with the regional variations is now at the bottom of daytime section as well as the same spread on the five main channels including BBC Three, BBC Four, ITV2 and ITV3 (launched on 1 November) now appear on digital/cable on the right page and a "Kids' TV" section in a single page on the left, also on 22 May 2007, two extra pages of television listings per day were added as part of a slight tweak in the publication's format, bringing it up to ten pages of listings per day in total, or five double-page spreads: one page of highlights with daytime listings and regional variations, followed by two pages of evening's terrestrial television listings (with "at a glance" for digital channels until 2010), then six pages of listings for digital, satellite and cable channels.
The most sweeping change came into effect on 10 April 2010 as Radio Times went through a major overhaul with the two pages for latest reviews of highlights ("choices") that similar to TVTimes, while the daytime listings moved onto the evening section having the full day's output for the five main channels on one double-page spread to complete the set:
Other changes saw the addition of electronic program guide numbers into the channel headers, and include director and year of production details on all Film4 movies throughout the day, then on 20 February 2016 after the closure of the BBC Three channel, Radio Times now includes BBC Four in the main channels section with Channel 5 being relegated to the Freeview section pages.
By the 1950s Radio Times had grown to be the magazine with the largest circulation in Europe, with an average sales of 8.8 million in 1955. In the mid-1970s it was just over four million while as of 2013 it is just over one million.
The latest circulation figure (January 2013 – January 2014) for the Radio Times is 831,591 (
After the deregulation of television listings, there was strong criticism from other listings magazines that Radio Times was advertised on the BBC (as well as on commercial channels), saying that it gave unfair advantage to a publication bearing the "If it's on... it's in!" tagline.
The case went to court, but the outcome was that as the Radio Times had close connections with the BBC it would be allowed to be advertised by the BBC; however from 1992 until 2004, it must be a static picture of the cover and show clear disclaimer "Other television listings magazines are available" leading to the phrase entering common public usage for a time.
By the early 2000s, advertisements for the publication had become sparse on the BBC. The Radio Times has not been promoted on BBC television and radio channels since 2005, following complaints by rival publications that the promotions were unfair competition.
|Issue No.||Issue date||Reason|
|138||14 May 1926||General strike|
|1221||21 February 1947||Fuel crisis|
|28 February 1947|
|1404||8 September 1950||Printing dispute|
|1408||13 October 1950|
|20 October 1950|
|27 October 1950|
|3012||1 August 1981|
|3099||2 April 1983|
|3100||9 April 1983|
|3134||3 December 1983|
Printing disputes and other operational difficulties have also led to the magazine appearing in a different formats to the standard:
|Issue No.||Issue date||Reason|
|1342||1 July 1949||London edition printed by The Daily Graphic|
|1404||15 September 1950||Nine-day issue, northern edition printed as a tabloid|
|1408||3 November 1950|
|1685||24 February 1956||Printed as a broadsheet in Paris, France|
|1686||2 March 1956|
|1687||9 March 1956|
|1688||16 March 1956|
|1689||23 March 1956|
|1690||30 March 1956|
|2870||11 November 1978||Cover printed in monochrome|
|2871||18 November 1978|
|2872||25 November 1978|
|2951||31 May 1980|
The day's listings beginning with "at a glance", followed by BBC Television channels (for BBC One in vermilion and BBC Two in spring green) and BBC Radio stations were also shown inside the coloured block halfway down the side of each page, which had a different colour for each day:
These colours were slightly different from those that were changed on 22 December 1990, through until 29 October 2004:
The channel logos arrived on 16 February 1991 as the same date for the new BBC One and BBC Two station idents, when they started covering all channels to identify the colours in adjacent column, before rebranding the BBC's corporate logo on 4 October 1997:
|Channel 5 (from 30 March 1997)||Yellow|
From 25 September 1999 to 13 April 2001, the programme page headings were returned as showing inside the coloured block vertically for each page which is similar to the short-lived 1990 layout:
On 30 October 2004, the colours were later changed the day's listings for Tuesday in lavender, Wednesday in mint leaf, Friday in navy blue, and from 10 April 2010, the colours changed once again were Sunday in navy blue, Monday in yellow, Tuesday in glaucous, Thursday in mauve and Friday in indigo.
There are several regional editions, which each contain different listings for regional programming. All editions of Radio Times carry variations for adjoining regions and local radio listings.
When it began on 28 September 1923, there was just a single national edition, but from 10 October 1926 there were three separate editions – Southern, Northern and Scottish/Ulster. They were published until 7 January 1934 when Radio Times reverted back to one edition:
|Edition||BBC wireless stations|
|Southern||2LO (London), 5IT (Birmingham), 5WA (Cardiff), 6BM (Bournemouth), 5PY (Plymouth), 5NG (Nottingham), 6ST (Stoke), 5SX (Swansea)|
|Northern||2ZY (Manchester), 5NO (Newcastle), 2FL (Sheffield), 6LV (Liverpool), 2LS (Leeds/Bradford), 6KH (Hull)|
|Scottish/Ulster||5SC (Glasgow), 2BD (Aberdeen), 2DE (Dundee), 2BE (Belfast)|
After the war, regional editions were introduced on 29 July 1945 and the television service is finally resumed on 7 June 1946 (after they closed down on 1 September 1939 in the duration of war for over six years). The spread of television editions for Radio Times where the full listings (with six pages) were not included in all issues until August 1952:
|BBC TV (later BBC One) regions||Service date|
|London||2 November 1936|
|Midlands||17 December 1949|
|North of England||12 October 1951|
|Scotland||14 March 1952|
|West of England (including Wales until 1964)||15 August 1952|
|Northern Ireland||21 July 1955|
|Wales||9 February 1964|
In 1949 the North of England region was separated from Northern Ireland who had their own edition. On 8 October 1960, the Midlands region was renamed Midlands & East Anglia, and the West of England region was renamed South & West, then on 21 March 1964 the previously unmarked London region was renamed London & South East, it was later dropped on 25 March 1989 when the "London" name is no longer used and became known as South East.
When BBC Two began on 20 April 1964, there were a number of "BBC-2 edition" for areas where only certain parts of a region could get BBC Two until 1966:
|BBC Two regions||Service date|
|London & South East||20 April 1964|
|Midlands & East Anglia||6 December 1964|
|Wales||12 September 1965|
|North of England||31 October 1965|
|South & West||16 January 1966|
|Northern Ireland||11 June 1966|
|Scotland||9 July 1966|
On 31 August 1970, the four English regional editions were separated into ten areas:
† The English administrative counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and the three ridings of Yorkshire were abolished and replaced by the new counties of Cumbria, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Humberside during the actual 1974 re-organisation.
These regions were further subdivided with individual editions for each BBC Local Radio station, this continued until 1981 when each regional edition began to cover three local stations.
From 1982 until 1991, S4C listings were included in the Wales edition known as "Rhaglenni Cymraeg", but only the Welsh language programmes were listed, and no English language programmes were billed as "Rhaglenni Saesneg" at various times, those would require consultation for the TVTimes' pull-out supplement Sbec was used.
|Edition||BBC regions||ITV regions|
|London||BBC South East||Thames Television (until 31 December 1992), Carlton Television (from 1 January 1993), London Weekend Television|
|East Anglia||BBC East||Anglia Television|
|Midlands||BBC Midlands, BBC East Midlands||Central Independent Television|
|South||BBC South, BBC South East||Television South (until 31 December 1992), Meridian Broadcasting (from 1 January 1993), Channel Television (from 26 October 1991)|
|West/Wales||BBC West, BBC Cymru Wales||Harlech Television (HTV)|
|South West||BBC South West||Television South West (until 31 December 1992), Westcountry Television (from 1 January 1993)|
|Yorkshire||BBC North||Yorkshire Television|
|North East||Tyne Tees Television|
|North West||Granada Television|
|Central Scotland||BBC Scotland||Scottish Television|
|Northern Scotland||Grampian Television|
|Northern Ireland (Ulster)||BBC Northern Ireland||Ulster Television (UTV)|
Before the launch of Channel 5 in 1997, the regional variations were at the bottom of the relevant channel listings on each pages.
The number of regional editions has been reduced since the early 1990s and 2000s due to there being fewer variations in the schedules:
- The Yorkshire region was absorbed by the North East region on 25 September 1993 and later added the North West region on 7 April 2007 to resembles the old North of England area from 1945 until 1970.
- The most recent of these was on 25 August 2007 when the Midlands and London/Anglia regions were merged.
- The exception to this process of merging is Wales, which used to be part of a larger Wales/West (of England) version, mirroring the HTV region, and separated on 16 April 2005 leaving the West of England area to join South and South West regions together.
- No edition of Radio Times in the Channel Islands their already used in the South West region, but Channel Television published its own listings magazine, the CTV Times (formerly Channel Viewer) until 25 October 1991 as it was feared that the company might cease trading without the revenue from its own magazine.
|Wikidata has the property:|
In December 2012, the BBC completed a digitisation exercise, scanning the listings of all BBC programmes from an entire run of about 4,500 copies of the magazine from 1923 (the first issue) to 2009, the BBC Genome Project, with a view to creating an online database of its programme output. They identified around five million programmes, involving 8.5 million actors, presenters, writers and technical staff. BBC Genome was released for public use on 15 October 2014. Corrections to OCR errors and changes to advertised schedules are being crowdsourced.
When the magazine was a BBC publication, covers had a BBC bias (in 2005, 31 of the 51 issues had BBC-related covers). Doctor Who is the most represented programme on the cover, appearing on 29 issues (with 35 separate covers due to multiples) in the 49 years since the programme began on 22 November 1963.
On 10 July 1969, Radio Times celebrated the Apollo 11 moon landing with this cover bearing the "TARGET MOON" caption at the top of the Saturn V rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on 16 July as part of the NASA's Apollo mission before landed on the moon on 20 July, and also a special eight-page pull-out colour supplement marking for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019.
Most covers consist of a single side of glossy paper. However, the magazine often uses double or triple-width covers that open out for large group photographs, while events such as Crufts or new series of popular programmes are marked by producing several different covers for collectors. Sporting events with more than one of the Home Nations (such as the Six Nations, UEFA European Championship, Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup) taking part are often marked with different covers for each nation, showing their own team. The second series of Life on Mars, meanwhile, was marked by the Radio Times producing a mock-up of a 1973-style cover promoting the series, placed on page 3 of the magazine.
On 30 April 2005, a double-width cover was used to commemorate the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who and the forthcoming general election. This cover recreated a scene from the 1964 Doctor Who serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth in which the Daleks were seen crossing Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament in the background. The cover text read "VOTE DALEK!" In a 2008 contest sponsored by the Periodical Publishers Association, this cover was voted the best British magazine cover of all time.
In recent years, Radio Times has published and sold packs of reproductions of some of the Christmas covers of the magazine as Christmas cards.
Annuals and guides
An Annual was published three times: in 1954, 1955 and 1956.
From 2000 to 2018, BBC Worldwide has published the Radio Times Guide to Films, featuring more than 21,000 films in a 1,707-page book. The 2006 edition was edited by Kilmeny Fane-Saunders and featured an introduction by Barry Norman, former presenter of the BBC's Film programme until his death on 30 June 2017 at the age of 83. The Radio Times Guide to Films 2007 is introduced by Andrew Collins.
There are also similar publications, the Radio Times Guide to Comedy and the Radio Times Guide to Science-Fiction.
The Radio Times website was launched in 1997 primarily as a listings service. In 2011, it relaunched offering a diverse editorial product to accompany its listings and television, radio and film recommendations.
- "ABC Certificates and Reports: Radio Times". Audit Bureau of Circulations. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
- Currie, Tony (2001). The Radio Times Story. Kelly Publishing. ISBN 978-1903053096.
- "The history of Radio Times". Radio Times.
- Sweney, Mark (16 August 2011). "BBC Worldwide agrees £121m magazine sell-off". The Guardian.
- Preston, Peter (11 March 2012). "What price the Radio Times? Only private equity can tell us". The Guardian.
- Chapman, Matthew (11 April 2012). "Radio Times hires Hello! ad director". Media Week.
- "German media group buys Radio Times". 12 January 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- "Issue 1 - 28 September 1923 - BBC Genome". Retrieved 10 July 2019.
- The BBC Story, 1920s
- Lord Pease (28 September 1923). "My message to "Listeners"". Radio Times. No. 1. p. 18.
- "The history of Radio Times". Radio Times. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- "Issue 682". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- "Issue 693". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- Carmody, Robin (July 2000). "THE GOOD NEW TIMES ... THE BRADSHAW OF BROADCASTING: 1980s – 2000". Off the Telly. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
- "Happy birthday Radio Times: Ten of the best covers from the last 90 years". Press Gazette.
- "UK magazines lose print sales by average of 6.3 per cent – full ABC breakdown for all 503 titles". Press Gazette. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Conlan, Tara (8 August 2005). "For viewers of quality ..." The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
- "FAQs". BBC Genome. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
- "Radio Times Facts and Figures". radiotimesarchive.co.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- "Former Time Inc editor-in-chief Mark Frith named as the new editor of Radio Times". Press Gazette. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- Kelion, Leo. "BBC finishes Radio Times archive digitisation effort". BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- Bishop, Hilary. "Genome – Radio Times archive now live". BBC. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
- Sweney, Mark (16 October 2014). "BBC digitises Radio Times back issues". The Guardian.
- Radio Times – Doctor Who covers
- "Doctor Who – The greatest magazine cover of all time". Radio Times. BBC Magazines. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2008.
- Martin, Nicole (29 September 2008). "Vote Dalek image voted best magazine cover of all time". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 October 2008.
- Radio Times coverage of the 2012 event, 18 January 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012
- Briggs, Asa (1995). The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Volume IV: Sound and Vision. OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-212967-3.
- "Radio Times ANNUAL 1956". Retrieved 26 December 2018.
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