1952: The beginning without a studio…
When BHBS Hospital Broadcasts came along we had several immediate advantages: we were local and able to bring items of local interest to our audience (notably sport and interviews with local entertainers), our signal quality was better than the BBC, and we had the time to mention individual patients’ names.
Hospital Broadcasts started with an idea by TOC H, a charitable organisation, that it should endeavour to help patients in hospital, the idea was further promoted by Rediffusion who had installed and controlled the landline distribution of radio programmes around the City of Bristol. They saw the provision of Hospital Radio in the City’s Hospitals as a natural progression of their service, and in a letter sent by their General manager to TOC H proposed the start of a service. This was duly reported in the Evening Post on the 28th January 1952. The first programme broadcast was the match between Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury Town on August 23rd 1952. The first broadcast was relayed on Post Office landlines to five hospitals with another joining the network the following week. Both the Bristol Evening Post and the Bristol Evening World reported the event. This meant that BHBS first started broadcasting from the sports venues themselves and not from its own studio.
In Bristol the members of TOC H led by Laurie Lucena went cap in hand to the two local soccer clubs, and used his careful negotiation skills to come away with not only facilities at the respective grounds but also with a donation of £50 from each club. So it was that when the 1952/53 season opened, six of Bristol’s hospitals were linked to the Rovers ground at Eastville by post office land lines, and several thousand unseen supporters joined the 23,000 crowd in the stadium enjoying the match. The original idea had been gleaned from an incident at Fratton Park, the home of Portsmouth Town Football club. When the ground became overcrowded, the gates were locked leaving many thousands of fans outside the ground unable to see the match. A young police sergeant sensed impending trouble and climbed onto a wall to give a running commentary to the crowd outside the ground. This act gave the policeman and a few of his friends the idea of relaying commentaries to patients in hospital. And so hospital broadcasts were born.