BBC Local Radio 

8 November 2021

BBC Handbook 1980 cover

From the BBC Handbook 1980

The winter of 1979 brought the severest weather Britain had experienced for 32 years. For many listeners and harassed local officials, it also brought the first real understanding of the value of BBC Local Radio in emergency conditions. Throughout the country, local stations provided special round-the-clock services. Details of road conditions, rail and bus cancellations, the availability of milk and food supplies, or school and hospital services – all these were provided via BBC Local Radio to those who often had no other means of obtaining vital information. At Sheffield, no fewer than 60 Corporation plumbers turned up for work on Sunday in response to a broadcast appeal, and when, from the same station. South Yorkshire transport official Alan Marshall broadcast the names of three handicapped children whose bus was stuck in deep snow, the parents of all three telephoned Radio Sheffield within ten minutes to say they had received the message. Radio Carlisle supplemented its output with an emergency information service on the telephone. Radio Oxford called on listeners, as well as the authorities to contribute reports on local conditions. Radio Birmingham even persuaded a local zoo to offer broadcast advice on animal care in the ‘arctic’.

Tributes to the services offered poured in from civic officials and listeners: ‘a unique contribution to relieving chaos, the service went a long way to easing the burden’; local radio ‘must now be seen to be essential’, wrote some of the satisfied customers, while the people of the beleaguered Isle of Sheppey actually presented the staff of Radio Medway with a special award for ‘devotion to duty … during freak weather conditions’.

This close involvement with the community continued in normal circumstances too. Other appreciative listeners to Radio Medway’s more regular output have just formed a supporters’ club. Black Londoners, Radio London’s programme for the Caribbean community, which began as a monthly series, became a nightly event this year in response to the welcome it has received. Radio Nottingham has pioneered a Link Opportunity Scheme especially useful to the over-65s. Members offer the skills they have developed in their working lives and benefit from those of others; the station administers the scheme, and expands it through on-air appeals for volunteers with special and additional skills to cope with new problems; the community in which the scheme operates acquires fresh bonds.



A few miles to the south, Radio Leicester involved the National Youth Bureau and the Manpower Services Commission in developing its new programme for school-leavers, Hot Air while Radio Stoke established close links with the West Midlands Arts Association in the production of a documentary series based upon local oral history. At Radio Brighton the Association of Community Broadcasters facilitated special programmes by the Sussex Astronomical Society, the Brighton Friends of the Earth, and the local Barbershop Singers. A somewhat different musical experience was offered by Radio Leeds when it mounted the nation’s first choir practice by radio. Rehearsals at home led to the public and broadcast performance of Haydn’s Oratorio in It’s Our Creation, with all concerned having a good deal of enjoyment on the way.

Twenty English communities at present enjoy the benefits of BBC Local Radio, but in 1978 the Government announced that the system would be permitted to expand. Nine areas were selected and announced by the Home Secretary for the first wave of development. Studio centres were to be established at Barrow-in-Furness, Cambridge, Lincoln, Norwich, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Taunton, Truro and York, and it was expected that the first stations would be open in the summer of 1980.


Key to the maps


New BBC local radio stations


The maps above show provisional service areas for the BBC local radio stations in Lincoln and Norfolk; these stations are scheduled to enter service in 1980/1981


You Say

1 response to this article

Stephen peart 24 August 2023 at 12:31 am

It’s 2023 still no dab in the west of norfolk for bbcradio norfolk.while rest of norfolk reserve it.but still got a am service in the west of norfolk.

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