Needle time

Needle time

Needle time was created in the United Kingdom by the Musicians' Union and Phonographic Performance Limited, in order to restrict the amount of recorded music that could be transmitted by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during the course of any 24 hour period. Until 1967 the BBC was only allowed to play five hours per day of commercial gramophone records on the air. It continued to affect BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and Independent Local Radio until 1988.

The term "needle time" comes from the use (at the time) of phonograph records as the main source of recorded music, which were played on phonograph record players using a phonograph needle.

Needle time notice

Unlike American records, British records carried a warning message around the edge of the record label in the center of the record itself. It stated words to the effect that: "Unauthorised public performance or broadcasting of this record is strictly prohibited."

Radio Luxembourg

Although the record industry in Britain wanted the public to buy its records, it had to give them some air time in order for the public to know that they existed. To that end the record industry used the commercial nighttime signals from Radio Luxembourg whose powerful AM signal could be heard in the UK. The "208" shows on Luxembourg were mainly fifteen minutes to thirty minutes in length and presented under names such as the Decca Records Show or the Capitol Records Show. These prerecorded programs resembled what later became known as Infomercials, because they only featured part of the record which came with heavy plugging for the record name and even its number.

The "pirate stations"

Unlike the BBC or Radio Luxembourg, the offshore pirate radio stations of the 1960s operated not only outside of the three miles limit of territorial waters, but they also operated in a grey area of the law. Because the studios and transmitters were located on board of the ships or offshore structures, the personnel on board were only under the authority of the captain of that ship or structure. In the case of ship stations such as Wonderful Radio London which introduced top 40 radio to Britain, the ship was actually registered in a foreign country and therefore subject to the laws of that country, which of course did not recognize "needle time".

Phonographic Performances Ltd

This company was created by interests in the American recording industry which had suffered the onslaught of commercial radio that demolished record company sales during the period prior to World War Two. Its name shows its origin since a phonograph in the UK related to a cylinder recording, whereas a flat disc was called a gramophone record. However, as is common with many words and expressions in the English language, the reverse interpretation is true in the United States where the words phonograph record means a flat disc.

See also

IFPI - a history of attempts by the record industry to claim a separate right to ownership of recorded works.

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