Radio Times
RadioTimes-cvr.jpg
Christmas 2005 double issue
EditorMark Frith
CategoriesTV and radio listings
FrequencyWeekly
Circulation577,087 (January – June 2018)[1]
First issue28 September 1923
CompanyImmediate Media Company (2011–)
BBC Magazines (1923–2011)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Based inLondon
LanguageBritish English
Websiteradiotimes.com
ISSN0033-8060

Radio Times is a British weekly magazine which provides radio and television listings. It was the world's first broadcast listings magazine[2] when it was founded in 1923 by John Reith, then general manager of the BBC. It was published entirely in-house by BBC Magazines from 1937[3][4] until 2011 when the BBC Magazines division was merged into Immediate Media Company.[5][6][7]

History and publication

Cover of the first issue

Radio Times was first issued on 28 September 1923, carrying details of BBC radio programmes (newspapers at the time boycotted radio listings, fearing that increased listenership might decrease their sales[8]).

Initially, Radio Times was a combined enterprise between the BBC and the publisher George Newnes, who type-set, printed and distributed the magazine. But in 1925 the BBC assumed full editorial control, and by 1937 the publication was fully in-house.[3] The Radio Times established a reputation for using leading writers and illustrators, and the covers from the special editions are now collectible design classics.

Masthead from the 25 December 1931 edition, including the BBC motto "Nation shall speak unto nation"

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 edition of 23 October 1936.[9] Thus Radio Times became the first television listings magazine in the world. Initially only two pages in each edition were devoted to television. However, in 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 for a reduced service, but by 1944, paper rationing meant editions were only 20 pages of tiny print on thin paper.

After the war television resumed and the Radio Times expanded too. Regional editions were introduced. In 1953 the television listings, which so far had been in the back of the magazine, were alongside the daily radio schedules. During the mid-50s Radio Times covers featured television rather than radio more and more, and on 17 February 1957, television listings were moved to a separate section at the front; radio listings were relegated to the back.

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.[10]

Until the deregulation of television listings in 1991, the Radio Times carried programme listings for BBC radio and television channels only, while the ITV-published magazine, TVTimes, carried television programme listings for ITV and, from November 1982, Channel 4.[11] Today both publications carry listings for all major terrestrial, cable and satellite television channels in the United Kingdom. A number of similar magazines, from independent publishers, also exist. Separate television and radio magazines began to be published from 1 March 1991, when the Radio Times and TV Times lost their duopoly to publish programme listings. However, the Radio Times still lives up to its name by being the most comprehensive source of UK radio listings in print, and also since the edition of 22 May 2007 has carried two extra pages of TV listings per day as part of a slight tweak in the publication's format, bringing it up to ten pages of listings per day in total.

Radio Times is published on Tuesdays (its publication day having gradually moved forward from Fridays over many years) and carries 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).

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 photographic covers for all other issues.

From April 2010, each day's television listed over ten pages or five double-page spreads: two pages of reviews of highlights ("Choices") followed by two pages of terrestrial TV listings (one column for daytime television, and five columns for the evening television), then six pages of listings for digital channels.

Before digital channels became commonplace, a terrestrial day's television 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.

After television listings were deregulated in 1991, 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 the publication. 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, it must be a static picture of the cover, and that the clear disclaimer "Other television listings magazines are available" be given (leading to the phrase entering common public usage for a time).[citation needed] By the early 2000s, advertisements for the publication had become sparse on the BBC.[citation needed] 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.[12]

The latest circulation figure (January 2013 – January 2014) for the Radio Times is 831,591 (Decrease 6.9%) making it third in the TV listings magazine market behind TV Choice (1,374,813 Increase 11.8%) and What's on TV (1,049,558 Decrease 14.1%).[13]

Editors

There have been 18 editors of Radio Times to date (including one uncredited and one returning) since the magazine began publication:[14][15]