LBC – Frequently asked questions

What is the London Broadcasting Company / Independent Radio News [LBC/IRN]

The project is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee [JISC]
digitisation programme and managed by The Media School at Bournemouth
University. The database is hosted by the British Universities Film and
Video Council [BUFVC] on behalf of Bournemouth University. The project
delivers c4000 hours of audio material, together with an online catalogue,
selected from the LBC/IRN Archive by subject experts at Bournemouth

What is the LBC/IRN Archive?

Commercial radio in Britain was launched in October 1973 when Independent
Radio News (IRN) and its sister organisation, the London Broadcasting
Company (LBC) were granted their licences. IRN supplied news, documentary
and current affairs programmes to LBC and to all other commercial radio
stations as they were established. LBC provided an independent radio
service to the London area. A joint IRN/LBC archive of programmes and news
items was established and this constituted the archive in its current form.

The archive comprised approximately 7,000 mainly reel-to-reel audio tapes
covering the period 1973 to 1995 (when digital storage was introduced).
Accompanying the tape collection were two catalogues; a card index of
approximately 3,000 cards which covers the period 1973 to 1985 and a
computer catalogue since 1985. Both catalogues are held at Bournemouth
University. The archive includes the first hours of UK commercial radio and
the first commercial radio news. The first sound broadcast from parliament
in 1976 are archived, as are detailed news and current affairs coverage of
historical events made at the time such as the Falklands War, the Miners’
Strike, urban riots and the complete career of Margaret Thatcher as leader
of the Conservative Party. The archive forms an important part of the
history of radio broadcasting, since it provides an alternative source of
radio journalism and news and current affairs communication to the BBC’s
own collection.

In addition to the hard news and pioneering reportage style associated with
IRN and LBC are the Hayes on Sunday magazines in which the ‘shock jock’
style was first introduced to British radio. Decision Makers was a weekly
half hour current affairs strand which dealt with the process of political
decision making. Hour long celebrity interviews are also in the archive,
including live interviews recorded in front of west end theatre audiences.
The fate of the archive had been uncertain for many years. Interested
institutions including the British Library Sound Archive, representatives
of the Radio Studies Network and interested academics, together with the
original archivist, Charlie Rose, and the IRN Managing Director, John
Perkins have been meeting since May 2000 to discuss its future. In 2005,
after negotiations between Professor Sean Street and Chrysalis Radio, (the
owners of the Archive) the collection was deposited with Bournemouth
University’s Centre for Broadcasting History Research (CBHR). The complete
archive will be deposited ultimately with the British Library.

How important are the comparisons which may be made between the BBC and IRN
and their roles?

Until now there has been no opportunity to reflect on the effect IRN’s
coming had on other news services, in particular BBC Radio News. It is
anticipated that the provision of this resource will provide just such an
opportunity. In the meantime, it is worth reflecting on this extract from
Tim Crook’s International Radio Journalism (Routledge, 1998, p.p. 262-272).
His account eloquently demonstrates the importance of placing in the
context of its early years, the contribution of LBC/IRN:

“The London Broadcasting Company started its service at 6.00am on 8
October, 1973… UK radio had reached the point of no return and BBC
radio journalism had to face up to a force of competition which would
profoundly change its news-gathering and broadcasting culture over
the next twenty years.

LBC and UK independent radio’s national and international news
service, IRN, have pioneered developments in both technology as well
as the style of radio journalism… the organisations were sited in the
middle of London’s Fleet Street community. Their broadcast journalists
were a stone’s throw from pubs, restaurants and meeting places
frequented by the country’s leading national newspaper journalists.
This enabled LBC and IRN to have a much more independent journalistic
culture and news priority agenda. The sequential nature of commercial
broadcasting meant that the station’s schedule was much more flexible
in accommodating news-gathering and broadcasting responses to dramatic
and changing events.

The introduction of talkback phone-in radio brought the journalists in
direct communication with listeners who were allowed to articulate
opinions and views and provide direct information… LBC and IRN
relearned the basics of radio journalism by changing the outmoded and
bureaucratic practices of reporters who had been recruited from the
BBC and importing the skills of mainly Australian and New Zealand
itinerant radio-journalists who were on their ‘World trips’…

In the next twenty years IRN/LBC became a substantial training ground
for broadcast journalists who now figure prominently as international
bimedia correspondents and programming executives. Generations of
reporters learned their trade in reporting London news events and many
journalists in their early twenties found themselves flying around the
world with a battered Marantz cassette recorder, ‘Comrex’ telephone
transmission enhancement unit and a personal credit card…”

Does Independent Radio News still exist?

Not as an independent brand. On 3 March 2009 moved to Sky as their host
platform. Prior to this the service was hosted by ITN.

Why is the LBC /IRN Archive Important?

The LBC/IRN archive represents a missing piece in the history of radio
broadcasting in the UK. Independent Radio provided an alternative voice to
the BBC, and in the course of its development LBC / IRN pioneered many
changes in radio journalism and radio news that are now accepted parts of
industry practice. Examples include the phone-in, the first use of a radio
telephone to call in on the spot reports live to the studio and the use of
more than one presenter. The archive has a great significance for cultural
and social historians in a wide range of academic and scholarly
disciplines, including media studies, journalism, history, and politics, as
well as providing a resource for teaching.

What does the database contain?

The database will contain c 80,000 individual audio files, from short news
clips to longer documentaries and current affairs programmes. The archive
contains many statements, interviews and discussions with leading political
and cultural figures as well as examples of journalism and studio
discussion and analysis.

Why do some programmes have no date?

Not all programmes in the LBC/IRN have a TX date or transmission date. The
archive was organized by year and by theme and although many of the
transmission dates were retained in the catalogues and files associated
with the archive, some were not. In nearly all cases, however, the year of
broadcast is identified.

What other fields are used?

Title: Where a programme has a specific name this will be used eg
regular programmes Through the Night or Hayes on Sunday and documentaries
such as A Passage to England.

Genre: Type or nature of programme, assigned from an
in-house produced list. Many clips will
have more than one, in particular news reports often include speeches,
press conferences or interviews and longer programmes have commercial and
news breaks. Clips of one-off events, actuality or not fitting into any
other genre are denoted as “special”. “Technical” is used where the
production team can be heard. “News” alone is vague and unhelpful as a genre –
it applies to just about everything in the collection so is not being used.

Contributors: People actively involved in the clip – this will include
production team members, reporters, speakers, interviewees, bands or music
groups, and radio or television stations which originally broadcast the
clip. People being spoken about or referred to only will be included in
keywords. (?) is given after a name where the correct spelling could not be
confirmed, ? is given where the identity of the speaker is not confirmed.
Where they are known, common names for peers and clergy etc are given eg
Alun Gwynne Jones for Lord Chalfont, with the title given in the

Keywords: Keywords used are based on the UKAT
and UNESCO thesauri
as required by JISC, which use some
American spellings and words not used in everyday language eg “marriage
dissolution” and “family disorganization” for divorce. Names of places,
books, films, people being spoken about and organisations are also included
in keywords. Where the acronym is well known this will be given rather than
the full name eg IRA not Irish Republican Army.

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 Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Scheme 1983-
1990: The Felicity Wells Memorial Archive and the Central Southern
England Independent Local Radio 1975 to 1990 Digitisation Project, both
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
(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

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

LBC/IRN Archive Teaching and Learning Case Study
Bournemouth University project page
Project blog