Merseyside, Merseyside, Merseyside all the way through 

22 November 2014 tbs.pm/5429

Radio Merseyside

Arriving today in 1967 was BBC Radio Merseyside. Local radio plus the new BBC Radio 1 popular music service was thought to be the answer to the clamour from venture capitalists and the nation’s teenagers for more radio. But what the teenagers really wanted was more pop music and American-style disc jockeys. What the venture capitalists really wanted was to take money off the teenagers.

What the Labour government of the time really wanted was a state-owned system of improving, educative radio. After much struggle, they finally threw most of the “pirate” off-shore stations from the airwaves, then conceded the point by granting Radio 1 and local radio.

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But Radio 1 had very little needle time, so couldn’t replace the “pirates” like-for-like. Local radio had none at all, and anyway wasn’t aimed at teenagers. BBC local radio was immediately aimed at the type of people that still listen to BBC local radio – middle class, suburban, older people. Those were also the people most likely to be willing to go out and get one of those “VHF” radios the BBC kept banging on about – not least because they quite liked the BBC Music Programme on the Third Network in small doses (light music, operetta, nothing too grand) and that sounded awful on Medium Wave but was meant to be clear as a bell on FM.

Nevertheless, you’ll still see it said that BBC local radio – and, after a change of government in 1970, Independent Local Radio – was launched to replace the pirates. It wasn’t.

You Say

1 response to this article

Kif Bowden-Smith 30 November 2014 at 10:16 pm

What historians never remember or didn’t know, is that by 1967, only 35% of radio sets were equipped with VHF (FM) – according to BREMA – which meant that the audience was quite small initially for technical reasons. VHF continued to grow steadily but quite slowly and “proper” meaningful audiences for these BBC local stations (of which there were only 8 initially) had to wait until the following government, of a different political colour, allowed The Post Office (later renamed The Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications) to relicence them, to duplicate their output on Medium Wave (AM). That made a massive difference to audience ratings.

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