British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

ILR South

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Central Southern England Independent Local Radio 1975 to 1990 Digitisation Project?

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC] and is a partnership between The Media School at Bournemouth University and the Wessex Film and Sound Archive [WFSA]. The project has digitised and made available online recordings from Independent Local Radio [ILR] in the Central Southern area of England. The database was created and is managed by British Universities Film and Video Council [BUFVC].

What is the historical context for this collection?

On 8 October 1973, the first Independent Radio station - LBC (the London Broadcasting Company) opened in Britain. This was shortly followed by Capital Radio, also in London, and subsequently a gradual development of ILR across the United Kingdom. Among the early stations on the South Coast of England were Radio Victory (Portsmouth) Radio 210 (Reading) and Two Counties Radio (Bournemouth). In 1985, Radio Victory lost its licence, and was replaced as the local broadcaster in its area by Ocean Sound.

The wide historical context of these stations is extremely important and a key part of British radio development. In 1972, the Conservative government under Edward Heath sanctioned the development of commercial - or "independent" - radio in Britain. Due to the fact that the concept of radio funded by advertising had been equated with the American model of overtly commercialised broadcasting, rigorous safeguards and legislation were put in place to regulate this development. Thus the early history of British commercial radio - up to the Broadcasting Act of 1990 - produced stations characterised by a blend of local speech content, features and news notably similar in some aspects to the Public Service model of entertainment, education and information; in other words, Reithian.

This was regulated by the Independent Radio Authority until its dissolution in 1990, when it was replaced by the Radio Authority. In fact regulation during the 1970s and '80s proved to be so robust that in some cases stations found it difficult to equate the fulfilment of their community obligations to the financial imperatives necessary for their commercial survival; it was this issue which led to the re-defining of commercial radio parameters in the 1990 Broadcasting Act. Thereafter a new "lighter touch" system of regulation gave broadcasters licence to reduce quality speech commitment and concentrate efforts increasingly on fulfilling pledges firstly to share- holders rather than to their communities.

It also brought about opportunities for consolidation, which saw many of the smaller local commercial stations lose their identities through absorption into large radio groups such as the Capital Group, GWR, EMAP and Chrysalis etc. It is ironic that while an industry survived, its engagement with the local community declined. It is for this reason that broadcasting historians look back at the period which is the subject of this application with mixed feelings. It is a fact that the viability of commercial radio broadcasting Britain has the loss of a unique style of programming, which cannot now be recovered within the independent radio sector.

Why is Central Southern England Independent Local Radio collection important?

The collection is important as an exemplar of a type of broadcasting, ILR from 1973 - 1990. The material represents a style and structure of commercial broadcasting which has gone forever. In many instances, in addition, there is material of intrinsic historical value to both local and national scholars. For example, the material held within the Radio Victory collection (approximately 1,500 tapes) includes the period of the Falklands War. Portsmouth, as a naval port, was at the forefront of the campaign, and the station's pastoral role for families of servicemen within its area was significant.

What does the database contain?

The database contains 1365 recordings of programmes from the period 1975 - 1990 from the following radio stations broadcasting in Hampshire, Berkshire and Dorset:

Radio Victory (Portsmouth)
Ocean Sound (replacing Radio Victory after 1986)
Radio 210 (Reading)
Two Counties Radio (2CR) Bournemouth (1980 - 1989)

Why do some programmes have no date?

In many cases local radio programmes form the period 1973- 1990 did not survive. Fortunately, station managements in the Central Southern region had the foresight to lodge the material with the WFSA. However, not all the recordings had dates that could be identified for this project. 330 items in the database have no discernable date.

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 Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Archive 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.