► The shape of radio 

15 August 2016 tbs.pm/9206

14 January 1971: the minister for posts and telecommunications (formerly Postmaster-General) is about to announce how he intends to deliver the Conservatives’ manifesto promise to introduce commercial radio into the UK.

There are several huge lobbying groups, each with a different style of radio in mind. One seeks an American-style “free for all” – anybody can find a free frequency and start a station. One seeks a single, national pop service – perhaps even closing BBC Radio 1 to make room for it. One seeks regional hubs with local opt-outs, much like the BBC already had with the regionalised Radio 4 and the new local radio services. The big money is on Hughie Green’s plans, whatever they might be.

The ultimate choice Chataway would make is known to us – Independent Local Radio started in 1973 and was nothing like any of the plans discussed. But the discussion is fascinating. Ludovic Kennedy introduces this piece by David Lomax looking at the options in the contemporary audio recording of BBC-1’s nightly news review programme 24 Hours.

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5 responses to this article

garry 15 August 2016 at 4:11 pm

Christopher Cattaway [Sadly no longer with us] also of course a former Olympic Runner. Do you have the 24 hour edition in which the Attorney General announced the start of Day time television on I.T.V. from the spring of 1972?

Paul Mason 21 August 2016 at 6:17 am

I recall that the early ILR stations were all on medium wave frequencies, although wavelength (in metres) was used. There may have been others but 194 and 261 metres (1548/and 1152 KHz) were allocated to many stations. 194/was Radio City and 261/was Piccadilly, Downtown in Belfast and Pennine in Bradford also used 194. The clamour for MW or AM was surprising given that by the 1980s FM was in demand. I can only speak of Radio City in Liverpool. The first week on City in Liverpool had documentaries and other features. It was a real competitor to BBC Merseyside. However ILR didn’t employ orchestras as envisaged by Hughie Green. Live music and drama was left to the BBC.
Radio City started 21/10/1974 but within three years it became a round the clock juke box, special features dropped etc. Radio City had to broadcast token religious and classical music shows, but ditched these when allowed. Nowadays only local adverts distinguish Radio City from a myriad of other stations.
Getting back to the 1970s local papers adapted to ILR, only the Internet poses a threat.
The BBC spokesman did state that they only objected to commercial radio on condition frequencies weren’t surrendered but this happened in the 1995 when Radio 1 vacated 1053/1089 KHz for Talk Radio UK (now Talksport) and Radio 3 vacated 1215 KHz for Virgin Radio, who abandoned the frequency.

Paul Mason 21 August 2016 at 6:31 am

Continued – The debate about selling off Radio 1 seemed to start then and it has rumbled ever since. The sticking point is would a commercial station break new bands or artists or just forget about that side? Despite the plethora of FM and DAB stations only the BBC ones do other than pop music (except Classic FM) although that may not be the case in London.
Those who feared an American style free for all were right to worry. TBH ILR could close down except for local adverts between the same earpoison that is modern pop music (sorry but I do suffer from anno domini).Needless to say the only time I listen to Radio City is if I am in a taxi and I have no choice.

Paul Mason 22 August 2016 at 4:40 am

In my first post I should have stated the BBC spokesman had no objection to commercial radio except if the BBC had to surrender existing frequencies, which came to pass in the mid 1990s.

Paul Mason 24 August 2016 at 2:05 am

Virgin Radio 1215 KHz became Absolute but the AM frequency is not mentioned in the Radio Times. Radio City has four stations , the 96.7 original, the 105.9 which was the ,2nd short lived City Talk, City 3 which is a DAB station. The original 1548 was 194 Radio City, then became the first short lived City Talk, then City Gold, then Magic 1548, then Radio City 2, which moved to FM and City Talk is back on 1548 AM only there is mostly oldie music. Frankly Radio City should have lost the 105.9 frequency as that was intended as a talk station. Radio City has 3 1/2 music stations as it were, which is too much. Liverpool has a branch of Capital. one of the pioneer London stations which are in many big cities . Capital was also known as Juice and Crash, both of which I avoid like the plague unless cab drivers inflict it on me.

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