Your own radio station 

15 November 2018

From the Radio Times for 25-31 March 1967

BEFORE the end of this year the BBC will have started something it wanted to do long ago — local community radio. The folk of Leicester, Merseyside, and Sheffield will chat at the microphone while their neighbours listen. By June of next year nine communities will each have their own radio station, paid for wholly or almost entirely by themselves.

If you live in one of these nine localities you will be able to hear everything of interest that happens in your area. Your own radio station will give you all the local news. You will hear what is being talked about in your street, the next street, at your Town Hall, at the local Chamber of Commerce, among the young people of your town. Your own station’s radio car will be roving about to pick up what is happening, is it happens. You will be welcomed into your own radio station to say what you are worried or pleased about. This will be the BBC mingling with you and you with us.

The local station will be on the air every day from early morning to late at night. The listener will not only be in touch with every aspect of his own community, but will also get a selection of the best from all BBC radio — including the new popular-music programmes —on a clear local VHF wavelength, with no interference from foreign stations. The medium wave band is becoming more congested every month. VHF is the radio of the future. Already there are 150 makes of VHF transistor sets from £10 [£180 in 2018, allowing for inflation] upwards.

Why is the BBC starting local radio? The community where we live has an important impact on individual happiness. Most of our social needs — houses, roads, schools, health, law and order — are organised by local authorities. Nearly half the nation’s budget is spent by them. They employ one in sixteen of the working population. Some of our localities need drastic reforms and local democracy has not been taking enough interest in what shapes our lives. We need to revive local vitality and this will happen when local people themselves expose their worries, talents and achievements. The BBC will now help them to do so.

Each local radio station will be advised by a citizens’ committee — a local radio council. But a council meeting once a month or even once a week cannot give decisions minute by minute on local news and controversial affairs. The man in the front line — in the studio —has no time to refer to headquarters or to a committee. He has to decide there and then. That is why the local radio station manager and his staff must have considerable independence — the authority of an editor whose decision is final.

Every sort of pressure will be put on the station manager by this and that local interest. Nothing wrong in that. Pressure is part of a healthy democracy, and BBC staff are well used to it The wise station manager will sometimes defer, sometimes politely say no. He will never be able to please everybody, but he will do his best as a fair human being to inform and entertain his audience without fear or favour. The station is not his but the community’s. He represents not merely the BBC and those paying for the station but the whole of his audience. They are the boss.

These pioneers in local radio will make mistakes. Each of the nine station managers will kick himself as well as be kicked. Sometime in 1969 the Government will ask, ‘Has the experiment been a success? Should other localities now have their own station?’ On this question I am not impartial. I want the answer to be yes.

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Liverpool, Saturday 15 June 2024