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Independent Local Radio

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Logo used by the Independent Broadcasting Authority for promoting Independent Local Radio services in the 1980s.

Independent Local Radio is the collective name given to commercial radio stations in the United Kingdom.

As a result of the buyouts and mergers permitted by the Broadcasting Act 1990, and deregulation resulting from the Communications Act 2003, most commercial stations are now neither independent (although they remain independent from the BBC) nor local with all of the frequencies now used by Bauer or Global, and almost all of them are now relays of one of either company's national brands, with all remaining locality reduced to a weekday regional programme and localised news, weather and peak-time travel information.

The same name is used for Independent Local Radio in Ireland.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/3
  • IBA Engineering Announcements - 9 December 1986 'ILR Radio Teletext'
  • Radio Days Ireland 2020 - Creative Imaging for Local Radio with Paul Fernley from ReelWorld
  • IBA Engineering Announcements - 14 August 1984 'Radio ILR Developments'



Development of ILR

Until the early 1970s, the BBC had a legal monopoly on radio broadcasting in the UK. Despite competition from the commercial Radio Luxembourg and, for a period in the mid-1960s, the off-shore "pirate" broadcasters, it had remained the policy of both major political parties that radio was to remain under the BBC.

Upon the election of Edward Heath's government in 1970, this policy changed. It is possible that Heath's victory was partly due to younger voters upset by the UK government closing down the popular pirate radio stations.[1][2]

The new Minister of Post and Telecommunications and former ITN newscaster, Christopher Chataway, announced a bill to allow for the introduction of commercial radio in the United Kingdom. This service would be planned and regulated in a similar manner to the existing ITV service and would compete with the recently developed BBC Local Radio services (rather than the four national BBC services).

The Sound Broadcasting Act[3] received royal assent on 12 July 1972 and the Independent Television Authority (ITA) accordingly changed its name to the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) that same day.[4]

The IBA immediately began to plan the new service, placing advertisements encouraging interested groups to apply for medium-term contracts to provide programmes in given areas. The first major areas to be advertised were London and Glasgow, with two contracts available in London, one for "news and information", one for "general and entertainment".[5]

The London news contract was awarded to London Broadcasting Company (LBC) and they began broadcasting on 8 October 1973. The London general contract went to Capital Radio, who began broadcasting on 16 October 1973. In total, 19 contracts were awarded between 1973 and 1976. Due to government limits on capital expenditure and turbulence in the broadcasting field (mainly due to the Annan Report), no further contracts were awarded until 1980, when a second tranche of contracts were awarded. All stations were awarded an AM and an FM frequency, on which they broadcast the same service.

Original contracts

First tranche

Airdate[6] City Station name Current
Station name
8 October 1973 London London Broadcasting Company LBC Global
16 October 1973 London Capital Radio Capital London Global
31 December 1973 Glasgow Radio Clyde Clyde 1 Bauer
19 February 1974 Birmingham BRMB Hits Radio Birmingham Bauer
2 April 1974 Manchester Piccadilly Radio Hits Radio Manchester Bauer
15 July 1974 Newcastle-upon-Tyne Metro Radio Hits Radio North East Bauer
30 September 1974 Swansea Swansea Sound Hits Radio South West Wales Bauer
1 October 1974 Sheffield Radio Hallam Hits Radio South Yorkshire Bauer
21 October 1974 Liverpool Radio City Hits Radio Liverpool Bauer
22 January 1975 Edinburgh Radio Forth Forth 1 Bauer
19 May 1975 Plymouth Plymouth Sound Defunct, now a relay of Heart West Global
24 June 1975 Stockton-on-Tees Radio Tees Hits Radio Teesside Bauer
3 July 1975 Nottingham Radio Trent Defunct, now a relay of Capital Midlands Global
16 September 1975 Bradford Pennine Radio Hits Radio West Yorkshire Bauer
14 October 1975 Portsmouth Radio Victory Defunct
28 October 1975 Ipswich Radio Orwell Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
8 March 1976 Reading Radio 210 Defunct, now a relay of Heart South Global
16 March 1976 Belfast Downtown Radio Bauer
12 April 1976 Wolverhampton Beacon Radio Hits Radio Black Country & Shropshire Bauer

Second tranche

Airdate[6] City Station name Current
Station name
11 April 1980 Cardiff Cardiff Broadcasting Company Capital South Wales Global
23 May 1980 Coventry Mercia Sound Hits Radio Coventry & Warwickshire Bauer
10 July 1980 Peterborough Hereward Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
15 September 1980 Bournemouth 2CR (Two Counties Radio) Defunct, now a relay of Heart South Global
17 October 1980 Dundee Radio Tay Tay FM Bauer
23 October 1980 Gloucester Severn Sound Defunct, now a relay of Heart West Global
7 November 1980 Exeter DevonAir Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart West Global
14 November 1980 Perth Radio Tay Tay FM Bauer
12 December 1980 Torbay DevonAir Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart West Global
27 July 1981 Aberdeen Northsound Radio Northsound 1 Bauer
1 September 1981 Leeds Radio Aire Greatest Hits Radio West Yorkshire Bauer
7 September 1981 Leicester Centre Radio Defunct
12 September 1981 Southend-on-Sea Essex Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
15 October 1981 Luton Chiltern Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
27 October 1981 Bristol Radio West Defunct, now a relay of Heart West Global
4 December 1981 Ayr and Girvan West Sound Radio Greatest Hits Radio Ayrshire Bauer
10 December 1981 Chelmsford Essex Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
23 February 1982 Inverness Moray Firth Radio MFR Bauer
1 March 1982 Bedford Chiltern Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
4 October 1982 Worcester Radio Wyvern Hits Radio Herefordshire & Worcestershire Bauer
5 October 1982 Preston Red Rose Radio Hits Radio Lancashire Bauer
12 October 1982 Swindon Wiltshire Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart West Global
6 November 1982 Bury St Edmunds Saxon Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
4 April 1983 Guildford County Sound Defunct, now a relay of Greatest Hits Radio South Bauer
13 June 1983 Newport Gwent Broadcasting Defunct, now a relay of Capital South Wales Global
29 August 1983 Brighton Southern Sound Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart South Global
5 September 1983 Stoke-on-Trent Signal Radio Hits Radio Staffordshire & Cheshire Bauer
5 September 1983 Wrexham Marcher Sound Defunct, now a relay of Capital North West & Wales Global
17 April 1984 Kingston-upon-Hull Viking Radio Hits Radio East Yorkshire & North Lincolnshire Bauer
5 September 1984 Leicester Leicester Sound[a] Defunct, now a relay of Capital Midlands Global
1 October 1984 Norwich Radio Broadland Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
1 October 1984 Northampton Hereward Radio Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
1 October 1984 East Kent Invicta Sound Defunct, now a relay of Heart South Global
20 October 1984 Crawley Radio Mercury Defunct, now a relay of Heart South Global
12 October 1986 Southampton and Portsmouth Ocean Sound Defunct, now a relay of Heart South Global
30 November 1986 Northampton and Northamptonshire Northants 96 Defunct, now a relay of Heart East Global
3 March 1987 Derby Radio Trent Defunct, now a relay of Capital Midlands Global
22 May 1987 Bath GWR Radio Bath Defunct, now a relay of Heart West Global
  1. ^ Launched after failed Centre Radio went into receivership.

In July 1981, the Home Secretary approved proposals for the creation of Independent Local Radio services in 25 more areas.[7] However some of these areas were not licensed during the IBA's time as the regulator and did not receive a commercial station until after its successor, The Radio Authority, came into being in 1991.

Extension of ILR

In the late 1980s, the expansion of ILR continued at a similar rate. Under the Broadcasting Acts, the IBA had a duty to ensure that any area it licensed for radio could support a station with the available advertising revenue. Therefore, many areas were not included in the IBA's ILR plans as it was felt that they were not viable.[8] This did not prevent Radio West in Bristol getting into financial trouble and having to merge with Wiltshire Radio on 1 October 1985;[9] nor did it prevent Centre Radio going into receivership on 6 October 1983.[10]

Split services

In 1986 the Home Office sanctioned in principle the idea that different services could be broadcast on each station's FM and AM frequency and six experiments of split programming on Independent Local Radio of up to ten hours a week took place, although the first experimental part-time split service had taken place two years earlier when Radio Forth created Festival City Radio for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival.[11] The first station to permanently split their frequencies was Guildford's County Sound[12] who rebranded the FM output as Premier Radio and turned the AM output into a new golden oldies station, County Sound Gold in 1988.

By 1988, the government had decided that the practice of splitting was beneficial and a quick way to increase choice for listeners. The IBA then began encouraging ILR stations to split their services and most soon complied. The usual format was to have a "gold" (oldies) service on AM and pop music on FM, although Radio City tried "City Talk" on AM before abandoning the format. By the start of the 1990s, most stations had done 'the splits' with the final stations ending waveband simulcasting by the mid-1990s.

Incremental Radio

Incremental Radio was a new type of radio licence given out by the IBA between 1989 and 1990. These were additional radio services introduced into areas already served by an Independent Local Radio station and each had to offer output not already available on ILR, such as specialist music, programmes for a specific section of the community or for smaller areas than ILR stations cover. 22 stations went on air, most of which were eventually acquired by the large radio groups and absorbed into their networks. As of 2024 only a few remain independently owned and operated. The regulatory model these stations were under was a precursor to commercial radio stations licensed by the incoming Radio Authority.

The Broadcasting Act 1990

The Broadcasting Act 1990 provided for the abolition of the IBA and its replacement by the Independent Television Commission. The IBA continued to regulate radio under the new name of the Radio Authority, but with a different remit.

As a "light-touch" regulator (although heavier than the ITC), the Radio Authority was to issue licences to the highest bidder and promote the development of commercial radio choice.[13]


This led to the awarding of three national contracts, known as Independent National Radio to Classic FM, Virgin 1215 (later Virgin Radio and then rebranded Absolute Radio) and Talk Radio (later Talksport).

The Radio Authority also began to license Restricted Service Licence (RSL) stations – low-power temporary radio stations for special events, operating for up to 28 days a year – and to reduce the criteria for a "viable service area" with the introduction of Small Scale Local Licences (SALLIES) for villages, special interest groups and small communities.[14]

By this time the medium wave band had become unpopular with radio groups and the majority of new stations were awarded an FM licence only, even when an AM licence was jointly available.

In 1994 the Radio Authority introduced regional stations (Independent Regional Radio, again usually grouped under the banner "ILR" by most commentators) and began to license the commercial Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) multiplexes in October 1998.[13]

The Radio Authority was replaced by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) in 2004, which also replaced the ITC, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Radio Communications Agency and the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel). Ofcom has stated that they plan to continue the development of Independent Local Radio, with an emphasis on digital broadcasting, and to "ensure the character" of local stations, following the mergers and loss of local identities that followed the 1990 Act.[13]

ILR stations

In 2005, there were 217 licensed analogue ILR and IRR services in England; 16 in Wales; 34 in Scotland; eight in Northern Ireland; and two in the Channel Islands. These are licences rather than franchises. Some licences are grouped nationally, regionally or by format to provide one service; other licences cover two or more services.[13]

There were three national analogue services. There was one national DAB multiplex (Digital One) and 47 regional DAB multiplexes, owned by 10 and operated by nine companies (each multiplex carrying multiple services).[15]

Manx Radio

The first licensed commercial radio station in the United Kingdom is often stated to be Manx Radio, which launched in June 1964.[16] However, since the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, Manx Radio is not considered to be an ILR station and launched with a Post Office licence.[citation needed] Manx Radio is funded by a mixture of commercial advertising and a yearly £860,000 Manx Government subvention.

See also


  1. ^ Defiance, Defeat and Retribution Radio Caroline Web Site. Retrieved 28 July 2007
  2. ^ The day we woke up to pop music on Radio 1 Daily Telegraph Retrieved 2007-09-30
  3. ^ BFI researchers' guide - legislation. Retrieved 4 January 2006
  4. ^ Henry, Brian, ed. (1986). British Television Advertising - The First Thirty Years. London: Century Benham. p. 145.
  5. ^ Croston, Eric (Ed.) Television and Radio 1985 - Guide to Independent Broadcasting Independent Broadcasting Authority, London 1984.
  6. ^ a b Graham, Russ J. "Original ILR Airdates". Radiomusications from Transdiffusion. Retrieved 4 January 2006.
  7. ^ "Extension of Independent Local Radio". Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  8. ^ Croston, Eric (Ed.) Television and Radio 1981 - Focus on Independent Broadcasting Independent Broadcasting Authority, London 1980.
  9. ^ Rogers, Andrew RW + WR = GWR Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, retrieved 4 January 2006
  10. ^ Parry, Simon Off Centre Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, retrieved 4 January 2006
  11. ^ Murray, John. "End of radio era as transmitter that created Radio Forth legends Jay Crawford and Steve Hamilton is turned off". FiFe Today. National World Publishing Ltd. Retrieved 26 December 2023.
  12. ^ County Sound Radio MDS975, retrieved 8 August 2007
  13. ^ a b c d Ward, Inna (Ed.) Whitaker's Almanack 2006 A & C Black, London 2005; pp621–631
  14. ^ Woodyear, Clive (Ed.) Radio Listener's Guide 2003, The Clive Woodyear Publishing 2002
  15. ^ Ofcom radio licensing webpages. Retrieved 4 January 2006
  16. ^ Manx Radio website, retrieved 4 January 2006

External links

This page was last edited on 22 April 2024, at 01:18
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