Part 3 Music Services

Summary from Part 1: 1919 to 1949

The first hospital in the world to provide a broadcasting service to its patients started at Washington Reed General Hospital in Washington, USA in May 1919.

The world’s first dedicated broadcast to patients from a studio took place at the York County Hospital in England in 1926. It was via an installation that eventually consisted of 200 pairs of headphones and 70 loud speakers.

During the 1930s and 1940s three further music based services started in England; at Oldham (about 1933), Swindon (1938) and Ulverston (1949).

Services also started in Jersey in the Channel Island (1936), at Fort Lewis (1946) and in New York (1948) in the USA, at a RAF Hospital in Iwakuni, Japan (1946) and in Rotterdam in Holland (1947).

See Part 1 for further details.

By 2016 music based services had started in 14 of the 28 countries where a hospital broadcasting service has existed. A total of over 900 services have been identified covering all forms of hospital broadcasting. See Annex C, which also identifies the other five forms of hospital broadcasting: Sport, TV, Radio Lollipop, Psychiatric Broadcasting Services and the Veterans Bedside Network in the USA.

A total of 350 music based services are known to have started in 239 towns and cities in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales between 1926 and 2016. There is little doubt that the existence of others, many closed some time ago, has yet to be revealed.

Country Services Towns & Cities
England 281 189
N. Ireland 20 14
Scotland 32 26
Wales 17 10
Totals 350 239

29 of the 350 music based services that had started by 2016 were started by the charity TOC H.

The largest network of hospitals ever to receive a music based service in the world took place during the late 1950s when the Merseyside Hospitals Radio Network football commentary service in Liverpool started a record request programme. By 30 June 1958, two programmes per week were being relayed to 37 hospitals in Liverpool, Wrexham, Chester, Ormskirk, Heswall, Rainhill, Wallasey, Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port and Bebington.

NABHO’s 1974 Directory of Hospital Broadcasting Organisations records that Radio Royal was broadcasting from its studio at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary to 32 hospitals.

Outside of London, where 51 services have started, the city with the most music based services was Liverpool; with 8 services.

The first studio based broadcast in Scotland took place from an electrical store in Dundee in 1959. The second music based service in Scotland started in Edinburgh in 1962.

In the 1960s the Forth Radio Network (later renamed Edinburgh Hospital Broadcasting Service) relayed its service to 16 hospitals. The largest landline network of hospitals in Scotland.

The Swansea Hospital Broadcasting Service (Radio City) is the first known music based hospital broadcasting service to have started in Wales. It started broadcasting on 31 December 1966.

Ards Hospital Radio in Newtownards was the first music based hospital broadcasting service to have started in Northern Ireland. It started broadcasting in early December 1966. Two weeks later, on 23 December, Ulster Hospital Radio in Dundonald started broadcasting.

At least 170 music based services have operated in the Netherlands since the first service started in Rotterdam in 1947. In Germany at least 82 services are believed to have existed.

Two hospital broadcasting services have existed in military hospitals. The first one was at a RAF Hospital in Iwakuni, Japan in 1946. See Part 1. The second service started in about 1964 at the RAF hospital located in Ely. See Part 2 – Ely.

In the USA the Veterans Bedside Network (VBN) that was formed in the USA in 1948 was operating at 111 hospitals by 1954: 110 in the USA and one in Puerto Rico. Note: The VBN service also involves patient participation and is not listed under “Music Based Services. See Part 9 for further details.

Other countries where music based service have started since 1950 are:

Country Location Started Services
Republic of Ireland Galway About 1953 7
Uruguay Montevideo About 1956 1
Norway Stavanger Pre 1978 1
Zimbabwe Mutare 1984 3
New Zealand Wellington 1989 1
Switzerland Lucerne 1990 3
France Paris About 1994 2
India Kollam 2010 1

In 2016 29 hospital broadcasting services in UK were transmitting on Low Power AM. 5 were transmitting in low power FM.

In early 1996 Radio Lonsdale became the first hospital radio station in UK to be awarded a full-time restricted service license, broadcasting on low power 87.7 FM.  

In the spring of 1996 Radio North Angus (RNA) acquired low power 87.7 FM licenses for both the Arbroath and Stracathro Radio Stations. They were the second British and first Scottish Hospital Broadcasting Services to use freely radiating radio transmissions.

Radio Tyneside started broadcasting on 1575AM on 4 November 1998. The first hospital broadcasting service in UK to broadcast on Low Power AM.

See Annex A for further details of Hospital Broadcasting Services operating on low power AM and FM.

Two excellent examples of what is entailed in operating a hospital broadcasting service are found in the detailed history of Radio Tyneside in Part 3 – England – Newcastle and the detailed history of the Edinburgh Hospital Broadcasting Service in Part 3 – Scotland – Edinburgh.