British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

ILR Sharing

Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Independent Local Radio [ILR] Programme Sharing Scheme 1983- 1990: The Felicity Wells Memorial Archive?

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC] and was a partnership between The Media School at Bournemouth University and the British Library - National Sound Archive. The project has digitised and made available online recordings from The Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Scheme. The database was created and is managed by British Universities Film and Video Council [BUFVC].

What was the ILR Programme Sharing Scheme?

The scheme, organized initially by the IBA and subsequently by the AIRC (the Association of Independent Radio Contractors), encompassed a concept which enabled features, drama, music and news producers working in commercial radio around Britain to offer material - including a significant body of speech-based programming produced locally - to other stations.

The information was circulated via a 'Programme Sharing Sheet' and programmes were copied and distributed to interested stations by the AIRC. No moneys exchanged hands and programming was thus available to less prosperous stations on a 'quality only' basis.

The scheme also enabled many producers on small stations to gain national recognition for their work. As a result, many subsequently progressed to distinguished broadcasting careers.

With the 1990 Broadcasting Act, the demise of the IBA and birth of the Radio Authority, the cultural map of commercial radio in Britain changed radically. The Act permitted National Commercial stations, the gradual development of community stations and Independent production companies with the facility of selling programming to BBC radio.

In many ways it was a liberating event in broadcasting history. The Radio Authority was a 'light- touch' regulator compared to the IBA. On the other hand its relaxation of speech programming requirements on local stations meant it was no longer incumbent on companies to produce the type of community-based content represented by the Programme Sharing Scheme. It is no coincidence that 1990 not only saw the arrival of the Broadcasting Act, but the death of the Programme Sharing Scheme.

Who was Felicity Wells?

Felicity Wells was an employee of the AIRC in charge of organising the Programme Sharing Scheme. Sadly she died prematurely in the 1990s. The archive is named after her in recognition of her contribution.

Why is the ILR Programme Sharing Scheme important?

1. The work is of interest for its self-selecting quality and its unique place in recent British Broadcasting history.

2. Many of the programmes provide insights through their content into issues - local and national - of the time, together with the valuable of interviews with personalities many of whom are no longer living.

The Programme Sharing Scheme is a unique record of a key time in the history of British Commercial Radio, one which has been largely forgotten and was in danger of being obliterated forever as the oxide on the original tapes progressively degenerates. The Archive was held in store at the National Sound Archive, consisting entirely of tapes transferred from a centralised copying facility established in 1985 which operated until 1990. A number of these stations have long-since ceased to exist.

The value of this archive to Radio studies/Radio Research is that it represents evidence of a style of commercial broadcasting which no longer exists in Britain. The efforts of broadcasters in early ILR resulted in programmes of impressive quality, which are worthy of study today.

What does the database contain?

The database contains 1121 individual programmes from the period 1983 - 1990. The programmes were made by ILR stations across the UK. Some stations are more represented in the database than others; the London Broadcasting Company contributed 224 programmes, Radio Clyde 239 programmes while Devonair contributed 24 programmes and Two Counties Radio (2CR) 11 programmes.

How does it relate to other online ILR collections?

This database in one of three important collections in the area of ILR, the other two are the London Broadcasting Company / Independent Radio News [LBC / IRN ] Archive funded by JISC and the Central Southern England Independent Local Radio 1975 to 1990 Digitisation Project funded by the AHRC. Both these projects are delivered online through the BUFVC. Together these projects represent a very significant resource in the study of radio in general and of ILR in particular.

Where can I find out more about the Independent Local Radio (1973-1990) in the United Kingdom?

The literature on ILR is thin compared for example to books and journal articles on broadcasting in general, the history of Independent Television or the BBC. There are notable exceptions, Sean Street's A concise history of British radio (2002) and Historical Dictionary of British Radio (2006), Tim Crook's History and Development of Independent Radio Journalism in Britain (1999) and Meg Carters brief history of the first 30 years of independent radio (2003).

Any researcher could start with Barrie Macdonald's Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (1993) a comprehensive guide to the literature which includes Independent Local Radio. The other key publication which covers almost exactly the period of interest is Langham and Chrichley's bibliography Radio Research (1989). The following is a 'bare bones' structure with some additional notes particular to independent radio.

Official Publications These include: Bills and Acts, White Papers, Green Papers, reports of committees and parliamentary debates. There is an exhaustive list in MacDonald (1993) and with advances in technology a significant proportion are now available online. Harder to locate are public responses to government by the broadcasting industry and the IBA. Some were issued as publications and pamphlets or published in the IBA magazines Independent Broadcasting and Airwaves.

Corporate Archives These include the archives of Independent Local Radio (ILR) Companies and those of the regulators with responsibility for radio the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) 1972 - 1990 and the Radio Authority (RA) 1991 - 2003. Unfortunately it is hard to say to what extent any archival material from ILR Companies survives. The consolidation in the ILR companies from many to a very few owners means that a lot of material is lost. However, in a heavily regulated industry a significant amount of material reside in the IBA archives in the form of license applications and other types of reporting. The ITA/IBA corporate archives is currently located at Bournemouth University.

Publications of the regulator Annual Reports from the IBA 1973 - 1990, and the annual IBA handbooks. ITV75 is the first handbook to include information on independent radio which was fully integrated into Television & Radio 1976 - 1990. The IBA magazines Independent Broadcasting Aug.1974- Sep.1984 and Airwaves 1984 - 1990. Each issue had one or two articles on radio and included radio in articles on the general debates of the day. The two magazines had a very distinctive style, Independent Broadcasting for example included the text of lectures given by members of the IBA, Airwaves had more features and factual information.

Press and Magazine Publications Independent radio was covered by Admap - 1964 - , Broadcast 1960 - , Now Radio 1986 which ceased publication sometime in the early 1990's and the Radio Academy's magazine Radio 1984 - . The IBA newspaper clippings archive for independent radio, is currently deposited with Bournemouth University Library.

Audience Research Audience research data was produced by the Joint Industry Committee for Radio Audience Research (JICRAR) 1974 - 1992. The IBA Audience Research Department also conducted audience research on audience attitudes and patterns of listening.

Audio Access to audio recordings is essential to get a true understanding of Independent Radio. The three ILR projects hosted by BUFVC make available online 1000's of recordings from the beginning of Independent Radio 1973 to 1990.

References / Readings

Crook, T., 1999. History and Development of Independent Radio Journalism in Britain. In: Crook, T. ed. International Radio Journalism. London: Routledge, 261 - 280.

Carter, M., 2003. Independent Radio: The First 30 years. London: Radio Authority.

Langham, J. & Chrichley, J., 1989. Radio Research: an annotated Bibliography 1975 - 1988. 2nd ed. London: Radio Academy and IBA.

MacDonald, B., 1993. Broadcasting in the United Kingdom. A guide to information sources. 2nd ed. London: Mansell.

Street, S., 2002. A concise history of British radio, 1922-2002. Tiverton: Kelly Publications.

Street, S., 2006. Crossing the ether: pre-war public service radio and commercial competition in the UK. 2nd ed. Eastleigh: John Libbey.

Street, S., 2006. Historical Dictionary of British Radio. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Further information

About the project
Contributing stations
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