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Radio Times

Radio Times
Christmas 2005 double issue
Editor Ben Preston
Categories TV and radio listings
Frequency Weekly
Circulation 712,927 (January – June 2015)[1]
First issue 28 September 1923
Company Immediate Media Company (2011–)
BBC Magazines (1923–2011)
Country United Kingdom
Based in London
Language British English
Website .comradiotimes
ISSN 0033-8060

Radio Times is a British weekly television and radio programme listings magazine. It was the world's first broadcast listings magazine[2] when it was founded in 1923 by John Reith, the 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 1
  • Colour-coded listings 2
  • Digitisation 3
  • Covers 4
  • Price 5
  • Missing issues 6
  • Radio Times Guides 7
  • Website 8
  • See also 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

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

  • Official website
  • Radio TimesBBC – History of the
  • Radio programme about cover art with gallery
  • A selection of coversRadio TimesVintage
  • BBC Genome - Radio Times listings from 1923 to 2009

External links

  1. ^ "ABC Certificates and Reports: Radio Times".  
  2. ^ Tony Currie - The Radio Times Story (Kelly Publishing 2001) ISBN 978-1903053096
  3. ^ a b "The history of Radio Times". RadioTimes. 
  4. ^ "BBC - The Radio Times - History of the BBC". 
  5. ^ Sweney, Mark (16 August 2011). "BBC Worldwide agrees £121m magazine sell-off". The Guardian. 
  6. ^ Preston, Peter (11 March 2012). "What price the Radio Times? Only private equity can tell us". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Chapman, Matthew (11 April 2012). "Radio Times hires Hello! ad director". Media Week. 
  8. ^ The BBC Story, 1920s
  9. ^ "Radio Times pre-war television supplements - History of the BBC". 
  10. ^ "Happy birthday Radio Times: Ten of the best covers from the last 90 years". 
  11. ^ THE GOOD NEW TIMES ... THE BRADSHAW OF BROADCASTING: 1980s – 2000 by Robin Carmody, July 2000, Off the Telly Archived 14 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "UK magazines lose print sales by average of 6.3 per cent – full ABC breakdown for all 503 titles".  
  13. ^ a b Kelion, Leo. "BBC finishes Radio Times archive digitisation effort".  
  14. ^ a b Bishop, Hilary. "Genome – Radio Times archive now live".  
  15. ^ Sweney, Mark (16 October 2014). "BBC digitises Radio Times back issues". The Guardian. 
  16. ^ Radio Times – Doctor Who covers
  17. ^ "Doctor Who – The greatest magazine cover of all time". Radio Times.  
  18. ^ Martin, Nicole (29 September 2008). "Vote Dalek image voted best magazine cover of all time".  
  19. ^ Radio Times coverage of the 2012 event, 18 January 2012, accessed 1 December 2012
  20. ^ "FAQs".  


  • Tony Currie, The 'Radio Times' Story (2001. Kelly Publications) ISBN 1-903053-09-9
  • David Driver, The Art of 'Radio Times': The First Sixty Years (1981)
  • Martin Baker, Art of Radio Times: A Golden Age of British Illustration ISBN 978-1854441713


See also

The Radio Times website was launched in 1997 primarily as a listings service. In 2011 it relaunched offering a diverse editorial product to accompany its listings and television, radio and film recommendations. Tim Glanfield is the current editor of


There are also similar publications, the Radio Times Guide to Comedy and the Radio Times Guide to Science-Fiction.

Since 2000, BBC Worldwide has published the Radio Times Guide to Films, featuring more than 21,000 films in a 1,707-page book. The 2006 edition was edited by Kilmeny Fane-Saunders and featured an introduction by Barry Norman, former presenter of the BBC's Film programme. The Radio Times Guide to Films 2007 is introduced by Andrew Collins.

Radio Times Guides

  • 14 May 1926 (general strike)
  • 21 February 1947 (fuel shortage)
  • 28 February 1947 (fuel shortage)
  • 8 September 1950 (printing dispute)
  • 13 October 1950 (printing dispute)
  • 20 October 1950 (printing dispute)
  • 27 October 1950 (printing dispute)
  • 1 August 1981 (printing dispute)
  • 2 April 1983 (printing dispute)
  • 9 April 1983 (printing dispute)
  • 3 December 1983 (printing dispute)

For various reasons, some issues were not printed. These include:[20]

Missing issues

For the first three Christmases after Decimalization in February 1971 the Christmas issues were double the price of regular issues at 10p, increasing to 15p in 1974. Between 1975 and 1978 the Christmas issues returned to double the price of regular issue - 20p in 1975, 22p in 1976 and 26p in 1977 and 1978. 1979 saw the price increase to 30p even though regular issues were still 18p. The prices were 36p in 1980 and 50p in 1981. From 1982 to 1988 prices once again returned to double the price of regular issue - 50p in 1982, 56p in 1983, 60p in 1984, 64p n 1985, 70p in 1986, 74p in 1987 and 80p in 1988. Christmas 1989 saw the price reach £1, increasing to £1.10 in 1991, £1.30 in 1993 and £1.50 in 1995. In 1998 there was a 10p reduction in price, but in 1999 it returned to £1.50 increasing to £1.55 in 2000, £1.65 in 2001, £1.70 in 2002, £1.80 in 2003 & 2004, £1.95 in 2005 and £1.99 in 2006. Christmas 2007 saw the double issue price reach £2, increasing to £2.10 in 2008, £2.20 in 2009 £2.40 and 2010. The Christmas double issue of 2011 cost £2.50, which was more than twice the cost of a single issue. The Christmas double issue cost £3.20 in 2013 and £3.60 in 2014.

On New Years Day 2005 another 3p was added and eight months later 2 more pence was added taking the price up to 95p. In September 2006 it was 98p and May 2007 saw an issue cost £1 for the first time, rising to £1.10 in February 2008, before returning to just £1 the following month. It rose again by 5p in May of the same year, and then another 5p in January 2009 taking it back up to £1.10. The price remained the same until August 2010 when it was increased to £1.20. Since then the price has risen by 20p once every year. On the week commencing New Year's Eve 2011 another 20p was added taking the cost of an issue to £1.40 and from the beginning of 2013 the price was £1.60. The cost of an issue from the first week of January 2013, published on 29 December 2012 bears a cover price of £1.60. This then rose again in January 2014 to £1.80. The cost increased by a further 20p to £2.00 for the issue containing the listings since the first week in January 2015.

In July 1984, the year that Radio Times began to be web-offset printed and no longer used basic newsprint the price was increased to 30p (86p today). This price was held until December 1985 when another 2p was added. Twelve months later an issue of Radio Times was 35p. The price rose to 37p in November 1987, and continued to rise by another 5p every year for the next 5 years - to 40p in December 1988, 45p in September 1989, 50p in September 1990, 55p in November 1991, 60p in July 1992 and 65p in August 1993. The cycle was broken in April 1995 when just 3p was added taking it to 68p. From January 1996 until March 1997 it was 72p, March 1997 to March 1998 - 75p, March 1998 to March 2001 - 79p and March 2001 to December 2002 - 85p. For the whole of 2003 (except Christmas) the price was 88p and for the whole of 2004 (except Christmas) the price was 90p.

For seven issues from 2 January until 13 February 1971 the cover price was given in both pre and post Decimalized currency - 1 shilling/5p (equivalent to 69p today). Decimal Day was February 15, 1971. The price remained at 5p until May 1974 when it rose to 6p (74p today). August 1974 saw another 2p added to the cost taking it to 8p, rising to 10p in July 1975, 11p in August 1976, 12p in January 1977, 13p ten months later, 14p in June 1979, 15p December 1979, 17p in April 1980 and 18p in July 1980. By the tenth anniversary of Decimalization in February 1981 the price had quadrupled to 20p. The start of 1982 saw another 5p added, taking the price to 25p, rising to 28p in August 1983.

When it launched in September 1923 an issue of Radio Times cost 2d (equivalent to 42p today). This price stayed the same until January 1951 when it increased to 3d (equivalent to 35p today), although the Christmas Number – with a colour cover – bore a cover price of 6d from 1923 until the final peacetime issue in 1938. The price of non festive issues gradually rose from 4d in May 1958 to 5d in October 1960 (coinciding with the change in listing days from Friday - Thursday to Saturday - Friday. By September 1963 it had increased to 6d (equivalent to 47p today), rising to 8d in September 1967 and 9d in November 1969. Wartime and post war Christmas Numbers cost just 2d, before finally increasing to 3d in 1951, 4d in 1957, 5d from 1960, 6d in 1963 and 8d in 1967. For the very first Christmas double issue in 1969 the price shot up to 1'6 (1 shilling 6d, or 18d), increasing to 2 shillings or 24d the following year.


For the past three years, Radio Times has published and sold packs of reproductions of some of the Christmas covers of the magazine as Christmas cards.

Each year, the Radio Times celebrates those individuals and programmes that are featured on the cover at the Radio Times Covers Party, where framed oversized versions of the covers are presented.[19]

In April 2005, a double-width cover was used to commemorate the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who and the forthcoming general election.[17] This cover recreated a scene from the 1964 Doctor Who serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth in which the Daleks were seen crossing Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament in the background. The cover text read "VOTE DALEK!" In a 2008 contest sponsored by the Periodical Publishers Association, this cover was voted the best British magazine cover of all time.[18]

Most covers consist of a single side of glossy paper. However, the magazine often uses double or triple-width covers that open out for large group photographs, while events such as Crufts or new series of popular programmes are marked by producing several different covers for collectors. Sporting events with more than one of the Home Nations taking part are often marked with different covers for each nation, showing their own team. The second series of Life on Mars, meanwhile, was marked by the Radio Times producing a mock-up of a 1973-style cover promoting the series, placed on page 3 of the magazine.

The Radio Times for 30 April – 6 May 2005 covered both the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who and the forthcoming general election.

When the magazine was a BBC publication, covers had a BBC bias (in 2005, 31 of the 51 issues had BBC-related covers). Doctor Who is the most represented programme on the cover, appearing on 29 issues (with 35 separate covers due to multiples) in the 49 years since the programme began.[16]


In December 2012, the BBC completed a digitisation exercise, scanning the listings of all BBC programmes from an entire run of about 4,500 copies of the magazine from the first issue to 2009, the 'BBC Genome Project', with a view to creating an online database of its programme output.[13] They identified around five million programmes, involving 8.5 million actors, presenters, writers and technical staff.[13] BBC Genome was released for public use on 15 October 2014.[14][15] Corrections to OCR errors and changes to advertised schedules are being crowdsourced.[14]


In November 2004, the Friday colour was changed to dark purple. The Sunday colour was later changed to navy blue.

Before 1997, the regional variations were at the bottom of the relevant channel listings.

In September 1994, the pages had the day's name going vertical and lasted until Easter 2001, which saw the new cover font and the programme pages reverting to having the day running across the top of the page horizontally. The channel logos arrived in 1991, when they started covering all channels, but went with the revamp of September 1999, which also changed the primetime listings from two narrow columns (four channels) to one wide column (Channel 5 and regional variations), and the layout that continues to this day.

  • Saturday: Red
  • Sunday: Blue
  • Monday: Yellow
  • Tuesday: Purple
  • Wednesday: Green
  • Thursday: Magenta
  • Friday: Cerulean

Between June and December 1990, the programme page headings were deep pink for films, dark blue for television and a lighter blue for radio. The day was also shown inside coloured block halfway down the side of each page, which had a different colour for each day (radio listing pages were using colour-coded logos); however these colours were different from those that were adopted in December. The colour-coded pages are:

Colour-coded listings

Edition BBC regions ITV regions Other channels
London/Anglia/Midlands BBC London, BBC South East, BBC East, BBC Midlands, BBC East Midlands ITV London, ITV Anglia, ITV Central London Live
South/West/South West BBC South, BBC South East, BBC West, BBC South West ITV Meridian, ITV West, ITV Westcountry, ITV Channel Television
Yorkshire/North East/North West BBC Yorkshire, BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, BBC North East and Cumbria, BBC North West ITV Yorkshire, ITV Tyne Tees, ITV Granada BBC One Scotland, BBC Two Scotland, BBC One Wales, BBC Two Wales, ITV Anglia, ITV Border, ITV Central, ITV Wales, S4C
Scotland/Border BBC Scotland, BBC North East and Cumbria STV North, STV Central, ITV Border, ITV Border Scotland
Wales BBC Cymru Wales ITV Cymru Wales S4C, BBC One England, BBC Two England, ITV Central, ITV Granada, ITV West, ITV Westcountry
Northern Ireland BBC Northern Ireland UTV RTÉ One, RTÉ2, TV3

The latest circulation figure (January 2013 – January 2014) for the Radio Times is 831,591 ( 6.9%) making it third in the TV listings magazine market behind TV Choice (1,374,813  11.8%) and What's on TV (1,049,558  14.1%).[12]

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). By the early 2000s, advertisements for the publication had become sparse on the BBC, and BBC magazines, including the Radio Times, have not been advertised nor promoted on BBC television and radio channels since 2005, following a commercial review by the BBC.

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.

Each day's television (from 2010 onwards) is 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.

There are several regional editions, which each contain different listings for regional programming. All editions carry variations for adjoining regions and local radio listings. There are now fewer regional editions than there once were because fewer variations in the schedules have led to merging of several editions. The most recent of these is when the Midlands and London/Anglia versions merged into one in August 2007. The exception to this process of merging is Wales, which used to be part of a larger Wales/West (of England) version, mirroring the HTV region.

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.

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).

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 1982, Channel 4.[11] Today both publications carry listings for all major terrestrial (analogue and digital), cable and satellite television channels in the United Kingdom. A number of similar magazines, from independent publishers, also exist. 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 22 May 2007 edition 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.

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]

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 in 1957 television listings were moved to a separate section at the front; radio listings were relegated to the back.

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.

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.

established a reputation for using leading writers and illustrators, and the covers from the special editions are now collectible design classics. Radio Times The [3]

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