Last updated
Formation1939;80 years ago (1939)
ServicesProviding televisions, radios, and tablets to those in need
Website wavelength.org.uk

WaveLength is a charitable organisation in the United Kingdom, set up to work with people experiencing social isolation.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.



WaveLength is the UK's oldest loneliness charity, founded by the BBC and the Rotary Club of St Pancras in 1939. [1] The purpose of the charity is to provide radios, TVs, and tablets for isolated people living in poverty - usually the elderly, disabled or those who are chronically ill. More recently, the charity has given equipment to centres helping victims of domestic violence and refugees who have suffered torture. WaveLength believes that technology plays a crucial role in facilitating connections between people. Even when there is no-one else around, a radio or TV can be a friendly voice in an empty room and a window to the world. WaveLength is the first charity to have its own Theme Tune, which was released in October 2011. [2]

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

Rotary International international service organization

Rotary International is an American international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. It is a non-political and non-sectarian organization open to all people regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference. There are 34,282 member clubs worldwide, and 1.2 million individuals, known as Rotarians, have joined.

Theme music is a piece that is often written specifically for a radio program, television program, video game, or movie and is usually played during the intro, opening credits, and/or ending credits.


The charity was founded after Charles Stonebridge gave an address to his local Rotary Club in 1938, following a recent visit to Manchester where he had spoken to an organisation there which was providing radios (wirelesses) for people of limited means. The Rotary Club joined forces with the BBC to found a charity helping similar people living in London, the Greater London Society Providing Wirelesses for the Bedridden. Key founding members included HG Brewster, AJ Pilgrim, FW Lovell, C Stonebridge, W Cady and the BBC’s John Underdown. [3] By 1953, the Rev. Alfred Pilgrim was the only original founding member still involved with the society. He remained on the board until his death in 1968 and received an MBE in recognition of his work, becoming the driving force within the charity. In his obituary in the charity’s newsletter, editors wote that he hated all unhappiness and suffering and "strongly believed that the well-being of each should be the concern of all." [4]

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

The society went into hibernation during the Second World War and re-emerged in 1945. In 1946, it changed its name to Wireless for the Bedridden Society to reflect that it planned to extend its services to the whole of the United Kingdom. [5] The charity remained based in central London until 1979 before moving to Upminster in Essex and then to its current headquarters in Hornchurch, Essex. Traditionally, WaveLength has had the Archbishop of Canterbury as its president.

Upminster suburban town in east London, England

Upminster is a suburban town in Greater London, South East England, and part of the London Borough of Havering. Located 16.5 miles (26.6 km) east-northeast of Charing Cross and is in East London, it is one of the locally important district centres identified in the London Plan, and comprises a number of shopping streets and a large residential area. Historically a rural village in Essex, it formed an ancient parish. Although peripheral to London, the town has good transport links; it was first connected to central London by rail in 1885 and has a terminal station on the London Underground network. The economic history of Upminster is characterised by a shift from farming to garden suburb. As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Upminster significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming part of Hornchurch Urban District in 1934, and has formed part of Greater London since 1965.

Essex County of England

Essex is a county in the south-east of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south, and London to the south-west. The county town is Chelmsford, the only city in the county. For government statistical purposes Essex is placed in the East of England region.

Hornchurch suburban town in the London Borough of Havering, East London, England

Hornchurch is a suburban town in East London, England, and is part of the London Borough of Havering. It is 15.2 miles (24.5 km) east-northeast of Charing Cross. Historically an ancient parish in the county of Essex, that became the manor and liberty of Havering, Hornchurch shifted from agriculture to other industries with the growing significance of nearby Romford as a market town and centre of administration. As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Hornchurch significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming an urban district in 1926, and forming part of Greater London since 1965. It includes two large housing estates, Elm Park and Harold Wood. It is the location of Queen's Theatre, Havering Sixth Form College and Havering College of Further and Higher Education.

The charity today

As its original name became outdated, the charity became known as W4B. In 2010, the charity took on the larger name of ‘WaveLength’. WaveLength incorporates the digital, as well as analogue devices that it provides, and a possible expansion into internet provision. [6]

WaveLength has worked with Women's Aid to give TVs, radios, and DVD players to domestic violence refuges across the country. It also provides TVs to centres helping victims of torture.

Torture intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering upon a person or an animal, in order to punish or to coerce, or for sheer cruelty

Torture is the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological suffering on someone by another as a punishment or in order to fulfill some desire of the torturer or force some action from the victim. Torture, by definition, is a knowing and intentional act; deeds which unknowingly or negligently inflict suffering or pain, without a specific intent to do so, are not typically considered torture.

Alongside the gift of technology, the charity also aims to provide a voice to vulnerable people through advocacy. WaveLength has been involved in several consumer forums including the Consumer Expert Group, and has testified before the House of Lords on the UK’s digital switchover plans. [7]

Representatives of the BBC, UTV, the Rotary Club, and the charity's sister organisation Wireless for the Blind, sit as trustees on the charity's board.

As of 2014, the charity had started providing tablet computers to lonely and isolated people living in poverty, as well as radios and TVs.

Policy interventions

In 2017, WaveLength and the BBC collaborated to protect women and men living in Domestic Abuse refuges. The rules affecting television licenses in refuges had long been unclear and impractical. The policy change meant that everyone living in a refuge is now covered by one communal license. Refuges are now eligible for the same rules as hospitals and hotels, which allow all residents to share one licence regardless of how long they stay or how many residents there are at once. By changing this policy, more abuse survivors can benefit from a TV of their own during their time in refuge.

Position statements

Technology and loneliness: Many people are concerned about The Big Disconnect; the idea that the media is making us more antisocial and less engaged with the people around us. WaveLength's research shows that technology makes their beneficiaries happier and feel less lonely - and that technology does not cause loneliness. This research, undertaken in partnership with the University of York, illustrated that technology can help to improve people's physical and mental wellbeing, from young people, to elderly people - and everyone in between. [8]

Digital exclusion: WaveLength supports measures that will help to reduce digital exclusion and believe that Internet access is a utility, not a luxury. There should be minimum access for everyone, but just because a service is online does not mean it is accessible. While some digitally excluded people can be helped to access the Internet, there are some for whom such measures simply won't work. For people living with visual impairment, dyslexia, Alzheimer's disease, illiteracy, or mobility impairments, using a computer or accessing information from the Internet can be difficult and time-consuming. There is a careful balance to be met, by the Government and all public services. It is important to retain public-facing services, giving people the option to interact with a human, rather than pushing all services online. By moving information, advice, and services online, the Government risks further leaving behind those who cannot access the Internet for reasons of poverty, disability, or illiteracy.

Charity theme tune

In 2011 WaveLength became the first UK charity to have its own ringtone theme tune, or 'audible signature'. [9] This was created and donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada. Cato calls music the 'universal language', and says that he created the ringtone because it was a chance to make a 'specific contribution' to a cause. The tune 'conveyed a sense of hopefulness. It was then a question of adding a melody, which has the potential to be emblematic in a short space of time.' [10]

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  1. ['BBC written archives Charity minutes', letters to the BBC and internal minutes, 1938]
  2. "WaveLength". WaveLength. Retrieved 2017-06-29.
  3. ['Charity minutes', internal minutes, 1938]
  4. ["Bedside world", Vol.1 No.21 Christmas 1968]
  5. ['BBC written archives, Charity Commission and Charities minutes', letters to the BBC, revisitation, internal minutes, 1938]
  6. ["Charity Commission", letters to the BBC and internal minutes, 1938]
  7. "Digital switchover of television and radio in the United Kingdom: Report with Evidence" (PDF). https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldselect/ldcomuni/100/100.pdf . 29 March 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2018.External link in |website= (help)
  8. "The Big Connect: how media alleviates loneliness - WaveLength". WaveLength. 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  9. "Andy Cato creates first theme tune for UK charity". WaveLength. 2011-10-26. Retrieved 2017-06-29.
  10. "Interview with Andy Cato". WaveLength. 2011-10-26. Retrieved 2017-06-29.