When the BBC first started broadcasting,
Music-Hall artists refused to appear: most of them went round the halls
with one or two acts for a lifetime, and were obviously reluctant to
'give away' their material; and they were backed by the music-hall
circuits' managements. Only slowly, after much negotiation, did it
become possible for them to broadcast. Some broadcast in studios in
front of an audience, but outside broadcasts from Music-Halls became a
regular part of the BBC's output.
The technique arose of
inserting the outside broadcast of a couple of acts - which of course
had to fit in with the timing of the theatre concerned - into studio
broadcasts. The problem with this was that while the outside broadcast
was taking place, the studio audience - who could not hear it - were
becoming restless and wandering about, causing difficulties when the
broadcast returned to the studio.
The first suggestion made for
coping with this was that the band - directed by Jack Hylton for these
broadcasts - should continue to play for the studio audience alone.
This was dropped in a hurry when it was pointed out that Hylton would
want extra payment.
Then a revolutionary idea was presented. In
a memo of 31 January 1929, Mr. Suttkey of Engineering Department
suggested that a loudspeaker should be placed in the studio so that the
audience could hear the outside broadcast (up to then there were no
loudspeakers in studios). Objections that this might cause a howl-round
(the sound of the loudspeaker being picked up by the microphone,
returned to the loudspeaker, and so on, with increasingly noisy
consequences) upon the return to the studio were countered by the
invention of a relay-operated switch to mute the loudspeaker whenever
any microphone in the studio was live (a circuit diagram was attached
This device is so basic to broadcasting studios - it will
be found in almost every cubicle-controlled studio in the world - that
it is amazing that the BBC had managed without it for seven years.
all that, another problem remained: the studio audience, being much
smaller than the one in the theatre, sounded rather flat by comparison,
which tended to kill the remaining acts for the listener; the idea of
inserted outside broadcasts was abandoned and they were treated as
separate programmes from the studio shows.