Part 1 Early Years 1919 – 1949


The earliest known broadcasting service relayed solely to hospital patients was inaugurated at the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC, USA, in May 1919

It used a method of wire-less (not radio) distribution, with each patient issued with a special receiver connected to a headphone. The service did not remain in use for very long. 

Consideration had been given to installing a similar system in a military hospital run by the US Armed Forces near Paris in 1918 but the work did not take place due to the war ending. 

For decades thereafter the important pre-requisite for a hospital patient to be able to listen to a broadcasting service was the installation in wards of headphones or loud speakers all wired from a central point and, usually, fed from one or more radio receivers so that national or local stations could be heard. 

The first known hospital to be so wired was once again the Walter Reed General Hospital. It was wired so patients could listen to local radio stations, a service that started in 1924.

During the mid 1920s an extensive system that eventually consisted of 200 pairs of headphones and 70 loud speakers was installed at the York County Hospital in England. The world’s first broadcast from a studio located in the hospital took place at the York hospital in 1926.

During the 1930’s three further music based services started; at Oldham and Swindon in England and in Jersey in the Channel Islands. The service in Jersey being forced to close down when the Germans invaded the Channel Island in June 1940.

The service in Swindon was not studio based. Starting in 1938 the charity TOC H took a gramophone into the wards to play music to the patients at a hospital in Swindon. Between 1952 and 1977 TOC H went onto to start 29 music based services.  See Part 7.TOC H for details.

In 1949 a fourth music based service started in England, at the High Carley Sanatorium, near Ulverston,

In the mid 1930s the world’s first hospital sports commentary service was started at White Hart Lane, the home of the Tottenham Football Club in London. It was the first of over 60 hospital sports commentary services that, by the early 1960s, were covering mainly football, but also rugby, cricket, boxing, wrestling, speedway and ice hockey. At least 20 of these services were started by TOC H.

In 1946 the first hospital sports commentary service in Scotland started In Greenock at the Morton Football Club, a service that was given simultaneously to the blind supporters in the commentary box and to patients in hospital by the Morton Blind Fans Association. In 1949 the second hospital football commentary service in Scotland started at Kings Park, the home of Stirling Albion Football Club..

The first hospital broadcasting service outside of the UK took place at the military hospital at Fort Lewis in the USA in 1946. Later it became one of the first of 111 hospital radio services in the USA (including one in Puerto Rico) that in 1948 became known as the “Veterans Hospital Radio Guild” – later renamed as the “Veterans Bedside Network”. See Part 9. Veterans Bedside Network.

In 1946 a hospital broadcasting service was started in Japan at a hospital at RAF Iwakuni. Shortly afterward, in 1947, the first of numerous hospital broadcasting services started in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.