Radio 1 was established in 1967 (along with the more middle of the road BBC Radio 2) as a successor to the BBC Light Programme, which had broadcast popular music and other entertainment since 1945. Radio 1 was conceived as a direct response to the popularity of offshore pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline and Radio London, which had been outlawed by Act of Parliament. Radio 1 was launched at 6:55 am on Saturday 30 September 1967.
Broadcasts were on 247 metres (1215 kHz) high wave, using a network of transmitters which had carried the Light Programme. Most were of comparatively low power, at less than 50 kilowatts, leading to patchy coverage of the country.
The first disc jockey to broadcast on the new station was Tony Blackburn, whose cheery style, first heard on Radio Caroline and Radio London, won him the prime slot on what became known as the "Radio 1 Breakfast Show". The first words on Radio 1 – after a countdown by the Controller of Radios 1 and 2, Robin Scott, and a jingle, recorded at PAMS in Dallas, Texas, beginning "The voice of Radio 1" – were:
And, good morning everyone. Welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1.
— BBC Radio 1 opening message
This was the first use of US-style jingles on BBC radio, but the style was familiar to listeners who were acquainted with Blackburn and other DJs from their days on pirate radio. The reason jingles from PAMS were used was that the Musicians' Union would not agree to a single fee for the singers and musicians if the jingles were made "in-house" by the BBC; they wanted repeat fees each time one was played.
The first music to be heard on the station was "Theme One", specially composed for the launch by George Martin. It was followed by an extract from "Beefeaters" by Johnny Dankworth. The first complete record played on Radio 1 was "Flowers in the Rain" by The Move, the number 2 record in that week's Top 20 (the number 1 record by Engelbert Humperdink would have been inappropriate for the station's sound). The second single was "Massachusetts" by The Bee Gees. The breakfast show remains the most prized slot in the Radio 1 schedule, with every change of breakfast show presenter exciting considerable media interest.
The initial rota of staff included John Peel and a gaggle of others, some transferred from pirate stations, such as Keith Skues, Ed Stewart, Mike Raven, David Ryder, Jim Fisher, Jimmy Young, Dave Cash, Kenny Everett, Simon Dee, Terry Wogan, Duncan Johnson, Doug Crawford, Tommy Vance, Chris Denning, Emperor Rosko, Pete Murray, and Bob Holness. Many of the most popular pirate radio voices, such as Simon Dee, had only a one-hour slot per week ("Midday Spin.")
I want to slag off all the people in charge of radio stations. Firstly, Radio 1. They outlawed the pirates and then didn't, as they promised, cater for the market the pirates created. Radio 1 and 2, most afternoons, run concurrently and the whole thing has slid right back to where it was before the pirates happened. They've totally fucked it. There's no radio station for young people any more. It's all down to housewives and trendies in Islington. They're killing the country by having that play list monopoly.
Initially, the station was unpopular with some of its target audience who, it is claimed, disliked the fact that much of its airtime was shared with Radio 2 and that it was less unequivocally aimed at a young audience than the offshore stations, with some DJs such as Jimmy Young being in their 40s. The very fact that it was part of an "establishment" institution such as the BBC was a turn-off for some, and needle time restrictions prevented it from playing as many records as offshore stations had. It also had limited finances (partly because the BBC did not increase its licence fee to fund the new station) and often, as in January 1975, suffered disproportionately when the BBC had to make financial cutbacks, strengthening an impression that it was regarded as a lower priority by senior BBC executives.
Despite this, it gained massive audiences, becoming the most listened-to station in the world with audiences of over 10 million claimed for some of its shows (up to 20 million for some of the combined Radio 1 and Radio 2 shows). In the early to mid-1970s Radio 1 presenters were rarely out of the British tabloids, thanks to the Publicity Department's high-profile work. The touring summer live broadcasts called the Radio 1 Roadshow – usually as part of the BBC 'Radio Weeks' promotions that took Radio 1, 2 and 4 shows on the road – drew some of the largest crowds of the decade. The station undoubtedly played a role in maintaining the high sales of 45 rpm single records although it benefited from a lack of competition, apart from Radio Luxembourg and Manx Radio in the Isle of Man. (Independent Local Radio did not begin until October 1973, took many years to cover virtually all of the UK and was initially a mixture of music and talk). Alan Freeman's "Saturday Rock Show" was voted "Best Radio Show" five years running by readers of a national music publication, and was then axed by controller Derek Chinnery.
Annie Nightingale, who joined in 1970, was Britain's first female DJ and is now the longest serving presenter, having constantly evolved her musical tastes with the times.
On Thursday, 23 November 1978, the station moved to two new medium wave frequencies (275m and 285m), which allowed a major increase in transmitter powers and improved coverage of the UK. 247 metres was passed to Radio 3. The station was on medium wave only until the early '80s, when it took over the Radio 2 FM frequency for a number of hours on weekend afternoons and late weekday evenings. Eventually the BBC set up an FM channel specifically for Radio 1 and, after a number of years of parallel broadcasting, relinquished the medium wave frequencies.
In 1992, Radio 1, for the first and only time, even covered a general election. Their coverage was presented by Nicky Campbell.
In his last few months as controller, Johnny Beerling commissioned a handful of new shows that in some ways set the tone for what was to come under Matthew Bannister. One of these "Loud'n'proud" was the UK's first national radio series aimed at a gay audience (made in Manchester and was aired from August 1993). Far from being a parting quirk, the show was a surprise hit and led to the network's first coverage of the large outdoor Gay Pride event in 1994. Bannister took the reins fully in October 1993. His aim was to rid the station of its 'Smashie and Nicey' image and make it appeal to the under 25s. Although originally launched as a youth station, by the early 1990s, its loyal listeners (and DJs) had aged with the station over its 25-year history. Many long-standing DJs, such as Simon Bates, Dave Lee Travis, Alan Freeman, Bob Harris, Paul Gambaccini Gary Davies, and later Steve Wright, Bruno Brookes and Johnnie Walker left the station or were dismissed, and in January 1995 old music (typically anything recorded before 1990) was dropped from the daytime playlist.
Many listeners rebelled as the first new DJs to be introduced represented a crossover from other parts of the BBC (notably Bannister and Trevor Dann's former colleagues at the BBC's London station, GLR) with Emma Freud and Danny Baker. Another problem was that, at the time, Radio 2 was sticking resolutely to a format which appealed mainly to those who had been listening since the days of the Light Programme, and commercial radio, which was targeting the "Radio 1 and a half" audience, consequently enjoyed a massive increase in its audience share at the expense of Radio 1.
After the departure of Steve Wright, who had been unsuccessfully moved from his long-running afternoon show to the breakfast show in January 1994, Bannister hired Chris Evans to present the prime morning slot in April 1995. Evans was a popular presenter who was eventually dismissed in 1997 after he demanded to present the breakfast show for only four days per week. Evans was replaced from 17 February 1997 by Mark and Lard – Mark Radcliffe (along with his sidekick Marc Riley), who found the slick, mass-audience style required for a breakfast show did not come naturally to them. They were replaced by Zoe Ball and Kevin Greening eight months later in October 1997, with Greening moving on and leaving Ball as solo presenter. The reinvention of the station happened at a fortuitous time, with the rise of Britpop in the mid-90s – bands like Oasis, Blur and Pulp were popular and credible at the time and the station's popularity rose with them. Documentaries like John Peel's "Lost in Music" which looked at the influence that the use of drugs have had over popular musicians received critical acclaim but were slated inside Broadcasting House.
Later in the 1990s the Britpop boom declined, and manufactured chart pop (boy bands and acts aimed at sub-teenagers) came to dominate the charts. New-genre music occupied the evenings (indie on weekdays and dance at weekends), with a mix of specialist shows and playlist fillers through late nights. The rise of rave culture through the late 1980s and early 1990s gave the station the opportunity to move into a controversial and youth-orientated movement by bringing in club DJ Pete Tong amongst others. There had been a dance music programme on Radio 1 since 1987 and Pete Tong was the second DJ to present an all dance music show. This quickly gave birth to the Essential Mix where underground DJs mix electronic and club based music in a two-hour slot. Dance music has been a permanent feature on Radio 1 since with club DJs such as Judge Jules, Danny Rampling and Seb Fontaine all having shows as well as Radio 1 hosting an annual weekend in Ibiza.
Steve Lamacq, Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe
Listening numbers continued to decline but the station succeeded in targeting a younger age-group and more cross gender groups. Eventually, this change in content was reflected by a rise in audience that is continuing to this day. Notably, the station has received praise for shows such as The Surgery with Aled, Bobby Friction and Nihal, The Evening Session with Steve Lamacq and its successor Zane Lowe. Its website has also been well received.
However, the breakfast show and the UK Top 40 continued to struggle. In 2000, Zoe Ball was replaced in the mornings by friend and fellow ladette Sara Cox, but, despite heavy promotion, listening figures for the breakfast show continued to fall. In 2004 Cox was replaced by Chris Moyles. The newly rebranded breakfast show was known as The Chris Moyles Show and it increased its audience, ahead of The Today Programme on Radio 4 as the second most popular breakfast show (after The Chris Evans Breakfast Show hosted by Chris Evans). Moyles continued to use innovative ways to try to tempt listeners from the Wake Up to Wogan show. In 2006, for example, creating a SAY NO TO WOGAN campaign live on-air. This angered the BBC hierarchy, though the row simmered down when it was clear that the 'campaign' had totally failed to alter the listening trends of the time – Wogan still increased figures at a faster rate than Moyles.
The chart show's ratings fell after the departure of long-time host Mark Goodier, amid falling single sales in the UK. Ratings for the show fell in 2002 whilst Goodier was still presenting the show, meaning that commercial radio's Network Chart overtook it in the ratings for the first time. However, the BBC denied he was being sacked. Before July 2015, when the chart release day was changed to Friday, the BBC show competed with networked commercial radio's The Big Top 40 Show which was broadcast at the same time.
Many DJs either ousted by Bannister or who left during his tenure (such as Johnnie Walker, Bob Harris and Steve Wright) have joined Radio 2 which has now overtaken Radio 1 as the UK's most popular radio station, using a style that Radio 1 had until the early 1990s.
The success of Moyles' show has come alongside increased success for the station in general. In 2006, DJs Chris Moyles, Scott Mills and Zane Lowe all won gold Sony Radio Awards, while the station itself came away with the best station award.
A new evening schedule was introduced in September 2006, dividing the week by genre. Monday was mainly pop-funkrock-oriented, Tuesday was R&B and hip-hop, Thursdays and Fridays were primarily dance, with specialist R&B and reggae shows.
Following the death of John Peel in October 2004, Annie Nightingale is now the longest serving presenter, having worked there since 1970.
The licence-fee funding of Radio 1, alongside Radio 2, is often criticised by the commercial sector. In the first quarter of 2011 Radio 1 was part of an efficiency review conducted by John Myers. His role, according to Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, was "to identify both areas of best practice and possible savings."
The controller of Radio 1 and sister station 1Xtra changed to Ben Cooper on 28 October 2011, following the departure of Andy Parfitt. Ben Cooper answers to the Director of BBC Audio and Music, Tim Davie.
On 7 December 2011, Ben Cooper's first major changes to the station were announced. Skream & Benga, Toddla T, Charlie Sloth and Friction replaced Judge Jules, Gilles Peterson, Kissy Sell Out and Fabio & Grooverider. A number of shows were shuffled to incorporate the new line-up. On 28 February 2012, further changes were announced. Greg James and Scott Mills swapped shows and Jameela Jamil, Gemma Cairney and Danny Howard joined the station. The new line-up of DJs for In New DJs We Trust was also announced with B.Traits, Mosca, Jordan Suckley and Julio Bashmore hosting shows on a four weekly rotation. This new schedule took effect on Monday, 2 April 2012.
In September 2012, Nick Grimshaw replaced Chris Moyles as host of "Radio 1's Breakfast Show". Grimshaw previously hosted Mon-Thurs 10pm-Midnight, Weekend Breakfast and Sunday evenings alongside Annie Mac. Grimshaw was replaced by Phil Taggart and Alice Levine on the 10pm-Midnight show.
In November 2012, another series of changes were announced. This included the departure of Reggie Yates and Vernon Kay. Jameela Jamil was announced as the new presenter of The Official Chart. Matt Edmondson moved to weekend mornings with Tom Deacon briefly replacing him on Wednesday nights. Dan Howell and Phil Lester, famous YouTubers and video bloggers, joined the station. The changes took effect in January 2013.
Former presenter Sara Cox hosted her last show on Radio 1 in February 2014 before moving back to Radio 2. In March 2014, Gemma Cairney left the weekend breakfast show to host the weekday early breakfast slot, swapping shows with Dev.
In September 2014, Radio 1 operated a series of changes to their output which saw many notable presenters leave the station – including Edith Bowman, Nihal and Rob da Bank. Huw Stephens gained a new show hosting 10 pm – 1 am Monday–Wednesday with Alice Levine presenting weekends 1 pm – 4 pm. Radio 1's Residency also expanded with Skream joining the rotational line-up on Thursday nights (10 pm – 1 am).
From December 2014 to April 2016, Radio 1 included a weekly late night show presented by a well known Internet personality called The Internet Takeover. Shows have been presented by various YouTubers such as Jim Chapman and Hannah Witton.
In January 2015, Clara Amfo replaced Jameela Jamil as host of The Official Chart on Sundays (4 pm – 7 pm) and in March, Zane Lowe left Radio 1 and was replaced by Annie Mac on the new music evening show.
In May 2015, Fearne Cotton left the station after almost 10 years. Her weekday morning show was taken over by Clara Amfo. Adele Roberts also joined the weekday schedule line-up, hosting the Early Breakfast show.
In July 2015, The Official Chart moved to a Friday from 4 pm to 5:45 pm, hosted by Greg James. The move took place in order to take into account the changes to the release dates of music globally. Cel Spellman joined Radio 1 to host Sunday evenings.
In September 2017, a new slot namely Radio 1's Greatest Hits was introduced for weekends 10am-1pm. The show started on 2 September 2017. On 30 September 2017, Radio 1 celebrated its 50th birthday. Commemorations include a three-day pop-up station Radio 1 Vintage celebrating the station's presenters and special on-air programmes on the day itself, including a special breakfast show co-presented by the station's launch DJ Tony Blackburn, which is also broadcast on BBC Radio 2.
In October 2017, another major schedule change was announced. Friction left the station. The change features Charlie Sloth gained a new slot called 'The 8th' which aired Mon-Thu 9-11pm. Other changes include MistaJam took over Danny Howard on the Dance Anthems. Katie Thistleton joined Cel Spellman on Sunday evenings, namely 'Life Hacks' (4-6pm) which features content from the Radio 1 Surgery, and Most Played (6-7pm). Danny Howard would host a new show on Friday 11pm-1am. Huw Stephens's show pushed to 11pm-1am. Kan D Man and DJ Limelight joined the station to host a weekly Asian Beats show on Sundays between 1-3am, Rene LaVice joined the station with the Drum & Bass show on Tuesdays 1-3am. Phil Taggart presented the Hype Chart on Tuesdays 3-4am.
In February 2018, the first major schedule change of the year happened on the weekend. This saw Maya Jama and Jordan North join BBC Radio 1 to present the Radio 1's Greatest Hits, which would be on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Alice Levine moved to the breakfast slot to join Dev. Matt Edmondson would replace Alice Levine's original slot in the afternoon and joined by a different guest co-presenter each week. The changes took into effect on 24 February 2018.
In April 2018, another major schedule change was made due to the incorporation of weekend schedule on Fridays. This means that Nick Grimshaw, Clara Amfo and Greg James would host four days in a week. Scott Mills became the new host for The Official Chart and Dance Anthems, which replaces Greg James, and Maya Jama would present The Radio 1's Greatest Hits on 10am-1pm. Mollie King joined Matt Edmondson officially on the 1-4pm slot, namely 'Matt and Mollie'. The changes took into effect on 15 June 2018.
In May 2018, it was announced that Nick Grimshaw would leave the Breakfast Show after six years, the second longest run hosting the show in history (only second to Chris Moyles). However, Grimshaw is not leaving the station, but swapping slots with Greg James, who normally hosts the home time show from 4-7pm weekdays. This change took place as of 20 August 2018 for the Radio 1 Breakfast Show (which was then renamed to Radio 1 Breakfast). Nick Grimshaw's show started on 3 September 2018.
In June 2018, another series of schedule changes was announced. This sees the BBC Introducing Show with Huw Stephens on Sundays 11pm-1am. Jack Saunders joined the station and presented Radio 1 Indie Show from Mon-Thu 11pm-1am. Other changes include the shows rearrangement of Sunday evenings. Phil Taggart's chillest show moved to 7-9pm, then followed by The Rock Show with Daniel P Carter at 9-11pm. The changes took into effect in September 2018.
In October 2018, Charlie Sloth announced that he was leaving Radio 1 and 1Xtra after serving the station for nearly 10 years. He was hosting The 8th and The Rap Show at that point. His last show was expected to be on 3 November 2018. However, Charlie had been in the spotlight for storming the stage and delivering a sweary, Kanye West-esque rant at the Audio & Radio Industry Awards (ARIAS) on Thursday 18 October 2018, which points towards Edith Bowman. Charlie was nominated for best specialist music show at the ARIAS – a category he lost out on to Soundtracking with Edith Bowman and prompting him to appear on stage during her acceptance. He apologised on Twitter regarding this issue and Radio 1 had agreed with Charlie that he will not do the 10 remaining shows that were originally planned. This meant that his last show ended on 18 October 2018. From 20 October 2018 onwards, Seani B filled his The Rap Show slot on 9pm-11pm and Dev covered "The 8th" beginning 22 October 2018.
In the same month, B.Traits announced that she was leaving BBC Radio 1 after six years of commitment. She said she feels as though she can no longer devote the necessary time needed to make the show the best it can be, and is moving on to focus on new projects and adventures. Her last show was on 26 October 2018. The Radio 1's Essentials Mix is then shifted earlier to 1am-3am, followed by Radio 1's Wind-Down from 3 am to 6 am. The changes took effect from 2 November 2018 onwards.
At the end of October 2018, Dev's takeover on The 8th resulted in the swapping between Matt Edmondson and Mollie King's show with Dev and Alice Levine's show. This meant that Matt and Mollie became the new Weekend Breakfast hosts, and Dev and Alice became the afternoon show hosts. The changes came into effect on 16 November 2018.
On 15 November 2018, Radio 1 announced that Tiffany Calver, who has previously hosted a dedicated hip-hop show on the new-music station KissFresh, would join the station and host the Rap Show. The change took effect from 5 January 2019.
On 26 November 2018, Radio 1 announced that the new hosts for The 8th would be those of Kiss 100's breakfast show: Rickie Haywood-Williams, Melvin Odoom and Charlie Hedges. The change took effect in April 2019.