Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

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Brock
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Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

I noted in another thread that the VHF-only listings that used to appear below the main listings in the Radio Times until the mid-80s have been omitted from Genome. This creates some curious anomalies.

For example, in the 80s there used to be a complex arrangement on summer Sunday afternoons on Radio 2, when medium wave carried sports programming from 2pm, and music programmes were on VHF - but only until 5pm, when Radio 1 took over the VHF transmitters. The Radio Times used to have separate "Radio 1/2 VHF" listings at the bottom of the column, which included these programmes (e.g. Benny Green's show at 2pm).

Here's a typical week in 1984:

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/schedules/radio2/1984-05-06

There is no listing for Benny Green or any of the subsequent programmes - just "Summer Sounds" with Stuart Hall from 2pm. There is a note saying "2.0-5.0 pm Radio 2 music programmes continue on VHF", curiously placed after "The Best of Bentine" at 12.30pm, rather than after "Two's Best" at 1pm. But there's no indication of what those programmes were.

Now move on to 1985, after the Radio Times had changed its presentation style, and started listing VHF (or FM) programmes in the same panel as the MW programmes:

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/schedules/radio2/1985-05-12

"Summer Sounds" is once again listed at 2pm. This time it's followed by a listing for Benny Green, also at 2pm with no indication that they were on different frequencies. The (VHF-only) music programmes continue until "Sing Something Simple" at 4.30pm, then the next programme listed is Charlie Chester at 6.30pm, making it look as though "Sing Something Simple" lasted for two hours.

It didn't - it was a half-hour programme, ending at 5pm, where Radio 1 took over VHF. Charlie Chester started on medium wave when "Summer Sounds" ended, but you wouldn't ever guess that from Genome. (In fairness, the original listings could be difficult to follow at times as well.)

I don't want to detract from the huge effort that's gone into compiling Genome, but it does seem a pity that certain listings have been systematically overlooked in this fashion.

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Paul Hayes
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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Paul Hayes »

I believe they do encourage people to get in touch and help correct / add to their listings, though.

Brock
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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

You can edit listings for an individual programme, sure. But can you submit listings for a programme that wasn't listed in the first place?

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Paul Hayes
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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Paul Hayes »

Brock wrote:You can edit listings for an individual programme, sure. But can you submit listings for a programme that wasn't listed in the first place?
I'm not sure, I've never tried. But it must be worth dropping them an email to ask, I'd have thought.

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stearn
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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by stearn »

Genome blog post from 11 August 2015 - covering data originally 'missed' from the extraction:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/genome/entri ... 8b020b1b2d

Splitting listings (9 November 2016):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/genome/entri ... 4e31fe6cf0

Missing listings FAQ on the site:

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/faqs#missing-listings

Genome are already aware of the various bits of data that they hold but are not visible, including VHF (which also includes channel splitting i.e. R1/2) as I covered it in a 52 page report analysing the data extracted, what was public, what wasn't and what could potentially be done to increase the regional coverage. Here is the cover:

Image

Brock
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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

Thanks for that. I do appreciate the incredible amount of work that's gone into Genome and the generally high level of accuracy resulting from a largely automated process. I don't know how much of the following is covered by your report but this is what I've noticed.

A lot of the problems from that era (70s/early 80s) stem from the fact that there simply weren't enough frequencies available at the time and the radio networks had to make some odd compromises in their scheduling. The Radio Times listings had to reflect this and it wasn't always easy.

In the case of Radio 4, it was relatively straightforward - the main service was on medium wave (until 1978) or long wave (afterwards), and the VHF service carried the opt-outs - schools programmes, adult education, Open University, regional bulletins (until 1980), live Parliamentary broadcasts and one or two other things. These were listed separately after the main programme listings. Omitting the VHF-only listings doesn't generally affect the coherence of the main schedule. (I would however point out that Genome incorrectly indexes this as "Radio 4 FM" - it should be "Radio 4 MW" or "Radio 4 LW" as appropriate.)

On Radio 3, it was generally the other way round - the main schedule was on VHF, and Test Match Special opted out on medium wave, which was listed separately. This was certainly the situation after the 1978 frequency changes. However, during the earlier part of the 70s VHF opted out at certain times to carry Open University programmes, with the main schedule on medium wave. I can't actually remember how Radio Times handled this - I've a feeling there may have been both "medium wave only" and "VHF only" panels beneath the main listings on certain days. I'll need to look into it further, but I think the main listings were generally coherent.

Radio 2 was the hardest, because it shared a VHF network with Radio 1, so there was a "R1/2 VHF" panel beneath the main listings. Normally this just said "as Radio 2" or "as Radio 1" as appropriate, but if Radio 2 split its frequencies to carry sport on medium wave, then it was the main schedule that appeared in the separate panel (as I've illustrated above). This is why it's so difficult to put together a coherent Radio 2 schedule - sometimes it appears in the main listings, sometimes it appears as a VHF opt-out, and sometimes there isn't really a main schedule at all (if there's sport on medium wave and VHF has gone to Radio 1).

Radio 1 was straightforward, since most of the time it was only on medium wave, and it never split frequencies while it had the VHF network.

Then some time in 1984 (if I recall correctly) the Radio Times changed the way it displayed the information, abolished the separate panels and put all the listings in the same column, marked "VHF/FM", "MW" or "LW" as appropriate. This means that you'd often end up with two programmes starting at the same time but on different wavebands, listed one after the other. Genome has preserved the time information but appears to have removed the waveband information, making it look as though some programmes end at the same time as they start!

I think if you're aware of the transmission patterns of the time then it's possible to reconstruct the actual schedules from the Genome listings, but I can imagine that it might be confusing for people who don't know about the various frequency splits.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by TonyCurrie »

Just to muddy the waters a tad further, in the late 70s/early 80s Radio 2 sometimes carried Scottish opt-outs (mostly for sports coverage but sometimes these perforce included music programmes to fill up the opt-put slot) which were radiated on the Scottish VHF transmitters and 202m. And there were some Opt outs from Radio 3 as well. Some of the Open University programmes on Radio 4 VHF weren't carried on transmitters in northern and north-western parts of Scotland where medium wave coverage was either poor or non-existent. The displaced programmes were sometimes repeated in other Radio 4 VHF opt-out slots, but sometimes they were moved to the Radio 3 VHF transmitters in Scotland only.

Just to digress momentarily, but the 'opt out' was taken to its ultimate level at one time by BBC Radio Shetland, which at one point in the evening would opt back to Radio Orkney, as it in turn opted back to Radio Aberdeen, which was opting in to Radio Scotland.......

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

TonyCurrie wrote:Just to muddy the waters a tad further, in the late 70s/early 80s Radio 2 sometimes carried Scottish opt-outs (mostly for sports coverage but sometimes these perforce included music programmes to fill up the opt-put slot) which were radiated on the Scottish VHF transmitters and 202m.
I hesitate to contradict a Scotsman, but are you sure you've got the right period there? After November 1978 Radio 2 moved to 433m (693 kHz) and 330m (909 kHz) - there was no need for the 202m service after that, because the frequency network covered Scotland reasonably adequately. 202m was only used when the main Radio 2 service was on long wave.

Before the 1978 frequency changes there were no long-wave transmitters serving Scotland, and so Radio 2 was broadcast on four low-power medium-wave transmitters serving Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. Radio Times used to display the frequency information as "Scotland: 1484 kHz/202m", making it look as though the whole of Scotland was covered on this frequency. (I certainly gained that impression at the time, living in the south of England.)

Does that mean that Scottish listeners outside those four cities were deprived of a full-time Radio 2 service for over a decade? There was VHF, of course, but that was sometimes used for Radio 1. And, unlike in England, there were no local radio stations broadcasting Radio 2 in the evenings. Or did Radio Scotland carry Radio 2 after it had closed down?

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by TonyCurrie »

Sorry, I was going from rough memory - of course it was prior to the changed medium wave frequency plan, so mid 70s.
Radio 2 on Long Wave was pretty unsatisfactory in many parts of Scotland (hence the Westerglen/Burghead transmitters for Radio 4) so from January 1968, 202m was used to reinforce coverage for non-VHF listeners in the major cities - at first, Edinburgh and Glasgow and later Dundee and Aberdeen. As these were all 2kW stations, the end result was that some parts of Scotland outside the cities received a usable service by day, but at night the mush zones made that rather more difficult.

Brock
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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

TonyCurrie wrote:Sorry, I was going from rough memory - of course it was prior to the changed medium wave frequency plan, so mid 70s.
Yes, I don't remember any Scottish opt-outs on Radio 2 after the frequency changes - though of course I was getting the English edition of the Radio Times, so I might not have known about them. I imagine that the newly-launched Radio Scotland (which had previously existed only as an opt-out from Radio 4) would have carried any Scottish sports coverage from then on.
Radio 2 on Long Wave was pretty unsatisfactory in many parts of Scotland (hence the Westerglen/Burghead transmitters for Radio 4) so from January 1968, 202m was used to reinforce coverage for non-VHF listeners in the major cities - at first, Edinburgh and Glasgow and later Dundee and Aberdeen.
What I've never understood is why, if the BBC was able to open the Westerglen and Burghead long wave transmitters in 1978 for Radio 4, it couldn't have opened them in 1967 (or soon after) for Radio 2. 1500m/200 kHz was already allocated to the BBC for use at Droitwich, so what prevented them from using the same frequency in Scotland?
As these were all 2kW stations, the end result was that some parts of Scotland outside the cities received a usable service by day, but at night the mush zones made that rather more difficult.
According to Frequency Finder, 202m/1484 kHz was the international low power channel, and 2kW was the maximum power allowed. Four low-power stations were never going to cover anything like the whole of Scotland. I can't imagine that most of the Borders or Western Highlands could receive any sort of Radio 2 service at all when VHF carried Radio 1.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by David Ballard »

From the 1977 BBC Handbook:

"In Scotland, the Geneva frequency plan should lead to an improvement in the low-frequency (long -wave) service. The present 200 kHz (400 kW) transmitter at Droitwich does not adequately serve Scotland but, under the new plan, additional 200 kHz (50 kW) and 227 kHz (50 kW) transmitters, located at Burghead and Westerglen respectively, will make possible low- frequency coverage over most of the Scottish mainland."

So those frequencies weren't cleared for use in Scotland by Radio 2. Incidently, 227kHz was found to suffer from too much interference and was changed to 200kHz.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

David Ballard wrote:From the 1977 BBC Handbook:

"In Scotland, the Geneva frequency plan should lead to an improvement in the low-frequency (long -wave) service. The present 200 kHz (400 kW) transmitter at Droitwich does not adequately serve Scotland but, under the new plan, additional 200 kHz (50 kW) and 227 kHz (50 kW) transmitters, located at Burghead and Westerglen respectively, will make possible low- frequency coverage over most of the Scottish mainland."

So those frequencies weren't cleared for use in Scotland by Radio 2.
Yes, it seems that you're right. I've found a copy of the 1948 Copenhagen plan that was in force up until then (in German):

http://www.radioheritage.net/europe/ima ... nhagen.gif

Some wavelengths are allocated to entire countries but most appear to be allocated to individual transmitters - 200kHz/1500m is marked as "Droitwich, England".
Incidently, 227kHz was found to suffer from too much interference and was changed to 200kHz.
And that's the puzzling thing. The original idea was to have the Westerglen transmitter on 227kHz/1322m so that it didn't interfere with transmissions from the Droitwich and Burghead transmitters. Then the BBC decided that the frequency would suffer from too much interference from the Polish transmitter, so it changed the frequency to 200kHz/1500m, creating "mush" areas where the Radio 4 signal could be picked up from two transmitters - hence the need for medium-wave fill-ins in the Newcastle, Carlisle and Aberdeen areas.

So the BBC waited all that time for an extra long-wave frequency, then didn't use it!

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by JezR »

An informal account of the Geneva Plan discussions I've seen (ie take with as much salt as desired) claimed that the original BBC aim was to get agreement for low-ish power interstitial LW stations, knowing that the effective coverage area of Droitwich be reduced by others being allocated 200kHz. Getting use of 227kHz instead was a late offer and was accepted rather than getting nothing, although in the end it was deemed unworkable.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

Reviving this thread because I've just discovered possibly one of the biggest omissions from Genome due to a frequency split - Stephen Fry's eight-and-a-half-hour unabridged reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on Radio 4 FM on Boxing Day 2000, as mentioned here:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews ... dio-4.html

It ran from noon to 8.30pm as I recall, yet the Genome listings ignore it completely:

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/schedules/ra ... 2000-12-26

Yet the regular split at 9.45am is acknowledged, with both Book of the Week (FM) and the Daily Service (LW) being listed.

Would it be worth my while notifying them of this? As I previously mentioned, it's possible to submit corrections to an existing listing, but not to add a completely new listing.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by stearn »

I logged it as an issue some considerable time ago (3 Feb 2017). I am sure it will be dealt with once they work out how to handle splitting and combining listings for channels - not a trivial task how the database it built AFAIK.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

I wonder whether they intend to include Radio 4 News FM (aka "Scud FM"), the temporary network that was launched on Radio 4's FM frequencies to cover the first Gulf War in the first couple of months of 1991? There weren't any published listings in the Radio Times at all as far as I recall, but it would be odd to omit it completely.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by stearn »

Genome is very much the 'Radio Times' listings, so if 'they ain't in, they ain't on' - to mis-quote.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

Here's another example to illustrate the complexities of this issue.

Permanent radio broadcasting from Parliament began on 3 April 1978, and Radio 4 MW (as it still was then) covered Prime Minister's Questions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The time slot was 3.10-3.35pm (five minutes each side of the then 15-minute session). This meant that the Tuesday drama serial, and Thursday's Afternoon Theatre, were broadcast on VHF only, with filler programmes taking up the rest of the hour on MW.

The Genome listings reflect these arrangements faithfully for the first two weeks, including the first ever live Budget speech on Tuesday 11 April. Then, the following week, the VHF-only drama listings suddenly stop, making it look as though the Tuesday serial ("Hermsprong") was cut off in mid-run, and as though there was no Thursday Afternoon Theatre at all.

Close scrutiny of the remaining listings reveals the probable reason for this: schools programmes would have resumed that week on VHF from 2-3pm, since Woman's Hour is listed as being on MW only from 2pm. They would have appeared in a panel below the main schedule and hence were routinely omitted from the Genome listings. What I'm assuming is that, to make the listings tidier, the VHF-only drama slots were also transferred to that panel from 18 April onwards. So although the transmission patterns hadn't changed, the layout in the Radio Times had done so. (I can't know this for certain without seeing the printed text, of course, but it seems the likeliest explanation.)

In those days, of course, the main schedule was generally on MW rather than VHF, and it was highly anomalous to broadcast mainstream output on VHF only. (According to Andy Walmsley's blog, within the first 36 hours the BBC received 343 phone calls and letters of complaint; by the end of May complaints totalled 2,799 as against 31 letters of appreciation.) So it's easy to understand why the Genome compilation process would have missed these listings.

This is going to be pretty tricky to resolve by an automated process, I think. It looks as though the Radio Times wasn't even consistent with itself from one week to the next!

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by stearn »

You are quite right about the layout change - on the 3rd April the schedules are chronological and there is a subtitle: medium only/ VHF only. This would mean that all the page was OCRd, and schedules cut up in order and placed into the channel in chronological order. This mixes MW and VHF.

By the 18th, there is a separate panel for VHF and all the MW are in the main listings. The whole page would have been OCRd, but in this case, the VHF would have been identified as an 'unknown' and dumped into a holding area. It is possible that this could be retrieved, but all information that fell outside the strict schedule template was dumped into the holding area, so it is a bit of a muddle.

This particular issue wasn't flagged before the scanning, but I spent a considerable time creating a channel map using the bound volumes at Caversham as a guide so that the regional structure was identified. This blog entry: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/ ... oadc.shtml has details of the original criteria for dealing with listings and my photo of the regional bound volumes all open at the same page.

This blog entry: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/ ... isco.shtml has a small section of the channel map I created to help guide the team through the issues.

I didn't get as much time as I would have liked to flesh out the details on the maps (and identify all the potential problems) as when I pointed out there wasn't a pristine or complete set of RTs to draw upon for scanning I was tasked with assembling one, and I had a deadline to meet for them being sent off to the scanners. In addition to the channel map I did provide a set of notes on the layouts, anomalies I knew about, and a breakdown of the listings at regular intervals to highlight the changes, but I was off the project as soon as the assets were at the scanners and had no further input until the database was up and running internally and I was asked to comment.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by Brock »

It does look as though everything that appeared in a panel separate from the main listings has been omitted, and such panels were routinely used to deal with frequency splits during the 70s and early 80s. I'm not sure when they started but I think they were mostly discontinued in the autumn of 1984 when the entire layout of the radio pages changed, and listings for different frequencies were combined chronologically in the same column. None the less, the Harry Potter example suggests that they were occasionally used as late as 2000.

Most of what's affected will be things like schools programmes, continuing education, Open University and so on, but it's clear that parts of what might be regarded as the "main" schedule appeared in these panels from time to time (certainly on Radios 2 and 4), if the transmission pattern was in any way unusual. As I mentioned in another thread, the listings for Listen With Mother - surely one of the BBC's most historically significant programmes - end prematurely because it spent the last few years of its life as a VHF-only programme.

I'm very keen for Genome to provide as complete a record as possible of the BBC's broadcast history, so I think I'll drop them a line about this. Thanks for your invaluable insights.

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Re: Genome listings for VHF-only programmes

Post by stearn »

It certainly can't hurt, but it was all contained in the report I was commissioned to write (detailed earlier this thread).

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