Tuesday, 8 October 2013

In The Beginning...

Happy 40th Birthday, LBC - the UK's first Independent Local Radio station.

Hear the station's opening (unedited) - including the first news bulletin, read by Ken Guy, the first ad for Birds Eye Fish Fingers and the start of the Morning Show with David Jessel.

A true slice of British broadcasting history.

"Britain's first commercial radio station went on the air just a few minutes ago - and you're listening to it." - at 5'39".

Here are the programme proposals from LBC's original franchise application submitted to the Independent Broadcasting Authority in December 1972.

In those days only the winning applicant's programme proposals were made public - and not until after the station had begun broadcasting. The rest of the application - as well as all of the unsuccessful ones - remained confidential.

(It's scanned from the original document and, as a result of its age, the quality isn't brilliant).

Also here's the 4-page promotional "newspaper" published as part of the station's launch marketing.

Full-size versions are available at:

Importantly for me, it was LBC where I began my radio career - starting as a studio operator on Monday 1st July 1974 and working my way up the ladder until December 1987.

There was a lot to learn, not just the studio equipment but also getting to grips with some radio jargon I’d not encountered before. The ‘Traffic’ Department, for example, didn’t deal with reports of motorway tailbacks and train cancellations but were the people responsible for scheduling the commercials.

We may have lacked the resources of the BBC but somehow we still managed to make some great radio and, at times, beat them. In the mid-80s the breakfast programme, ‘AM’ (Radio 4 had ‘PM’ so why not?) with Bob Holness and Douglas Cameron, often had more listeners in London than ‘Today’. In fact the LBC of that time was, many years later, acknowledged to have been the ‘blueprint’ for BBC Radio Five Live.

LBC was fortunate in having some great broadcasters. As well as the aforementioned Bob & Doug, there were also Brian Hayes, Gill Pyrah, Adrian Love, David Bassett, Jeremy Beadle (pre-TV) and many more. Some other well-known radio presenters first cut their teeth at the station; Martha Kearney started her career there as a researcher while Clive Bull, still with LBC, was a phone-op.

Also at various times David Frost did a weekly mid-morning phone-in, Michael Parkinson had a film review programme and former PM Edward Heath presented a series on classical music.

Tim Crook, a former LBC/IRN journalist and now a leading media academic wrote a very good blog piece following the death of former IRN Editor Ron Onions last year.

As was typical of the time in the 70s, the unions ruled the roost with closed shops, strict demarcation lines and countless industrial dispites. In particular journalists, producers and presenters were members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), engineers had the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACTT).

While NUJ members were allowed to work alone in the small News Production booths the two main on-air studios and the Master Control Room (MCR) were the territory of the ACTT. Producers were allowed to lace-up tapes etc. but that was as far as it went; woe betide any hapless journo caught trying to edit a piece in an off-air studio.

Despite this, though, there was a great sense of cameraderie with everybody working together; demarcation lines did not extend beyond the studios or newsroom.

My time at Gough Square was very special. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with some amazing and very talented people – broadcasters, producers, journalists and engineers - and I am still proud to have been a part of LBC.

This evening around 300 of us will be meeting up – in some cases for the first time in 25-30 years – to celebrate the time we spent together. I think it's going to be a very special occasion.

Happy 40th Birthday, LBC - and Thank You!

LBC - Control Room 2 in December 1974. When state-of-the-art radio studios looked like this and handsome young Tech Ops wore black roll-neck sweaters. 
(Photo: © Martin Stevens 1974)