Focus on Cardiff 

6 December 2021 tbs.pm/74025

 

Television & Radio 1981 cover

From ‘Television & Radio 1981’, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority

Excitement, enthusiasm and extreme tiredness – a new radio station takes to the air waves.

 

Cardiff Broadcasting Company started its corporate life as two cardboard boxes full of demo tapes in the corner of someone else’s spare room, and a bulging briefcase carried to London meetings by Tony Gorard, Chief Executive. It does not sound much in view of the weeks of discussion and midnight oil that produced the franchise application document, but it illustrates the carefully contained enterprise which a new Independent Local radio station must be. High costs for equipment, accommodation, furniture and staff mean that starting small and keeping the company’s hand out of its pocket is essential, since the company will not earn anything until it is on the air – but beginning that way is also part of the fun.

Martin Newton, Chief Engineer, was the next company employee. Ex-BBC, pirates, Piccadilly and Beacon, he characterises the ‘Independent’ in ILR and could build and run a radio station in his sleep – a talent that was put to full use as the projected air date rushed towards him! He wrote shopping lists and order forms, made friends with the Post Office and studio architects, and started getting slightly nervous towards the end of 1979. Gradually an empty clothing factory on the edge of Cardiff’s dockland was transformed into the Radio House that had been dreamed of; hessian-clad and quietly humming with broadcasting equipment under stylish spotlighting.

The Programme Controller arrived in December. Daniel Damon, an experienced broadcaster, admitted that he had plenty to learn about putting that experience into other people’s programmes and other broadcasters’ mouths, and about IBA regulations, recruitment advertising, job interviews, board meetings, business lunches and how to listen to demo tapes whilst eating breakfast. In the quiet moments, of course, there were a few programme ideas to be knocked into shape!

 

People sit on the bonnet of a car

Presenters and members of the sales team take part in a CBC Taxi promotion tour.

 

Early in the New Year everything seemed to be going well, and a decision was taken by the IBA to move the target; air date would be a fortnight earlier so that the new company could get some benefit from April advertising – traditionally buoyant. Sales Manager Martin Ford had now joined and began wooing advertisers to the new medium.

 

 

In a growing industry, recruiting professional staff is not easy and it took most of the executive team’s efforts for February. By mid-February, the majority of the on-air staff had been found, but a couple of key posts, including that of News Editor, took longer than hoped. However, early March saw the first arrivals taking desks and chairs out of their boxes and running their hands over shiny new equipment. Air date was getting closer – programme plans were settled and rehearsals began about the same time as Trade Tests on the new IBA transmitters. By the end of March presenters and engineers were dry-running through most of the proposed programme schedule, doing mock phone-ins and interviews – and playing a few records that had arrived in the library (luckily few, as there were no shelves yet either!).

 

Four people on the steps of a building

All smiles from Lady Plowden and, left to right, vice-chairperson Jane Hutt, chairperson David Williams and chief executive Tony Gorard at the entrance to the new CBC Radio station.

 

The prestigious eve of the opening Dinner in Cardiff Castle drew a glamorous veil over the flurried final preparations in Radio House; the smell of hot solder and the sound of running feet were everywhere, the months and the money were about to be exposed to the air in a few hours.

 

Two women editing tape

Deputy news editor Lynne Mullen and IRN regional editor Scarlett McGuire anxiously assemble the first news bulletin.

 

At five minutes to 6 a.m. on Friday 11th April 1980, a few nervous and exhausted people put a radio station into the history books, watched and outnumbered by reporters from established and confident television and press. No one will forget the start of the second phase of ILR, but they may not remember it all!

 

A woman and a man in front of a plaque marking the opening of the station

Lady Plowden with programme controller Dan Damon.

 


 

A man at a radio control desk

Action stations as presenter Mark Williams introduces the first programme.

 

Cardiff Broadcasting Company
Radio House
West Canal Wharf
CARDIFF CF1 5XJ
Tel: 0222 384041

Coverage map

Directors: David Williams (Chairperson); Jane Hutt (Vice-Chairperson); Paul Chandler; Sonia Davies; Terry Dimmick; Bob Dumbleton; Paul Eddins; Alun Michael; Vivien Pollard; Peter Powell; Theodore Shepherd; Euryn Williams.

Executives: Dan Damon (Programme Controller); Martin Ford (Sales Manager); Tony Gorard (Chief Executive/Company Secretary); Philip Longman (News Editor); Martin Newton (Chief Engineer).

Cardiff Broadcasting started transmitting in South Wales on Friday 11th April 1980. The company structure is planned to give listeners greater access to and influence over the the programmes than in any other broadcasting organisation in Britain, and Radio House has deliberately been set near the centre of Cardiff.

Pursuing a policy of serving the whole area, CBC makes regular outside broadcasts such as coverage of the ‘Ogwr Tiki Raft Race’ at Bridgend and the ‘Mediaeval Fayre’ at Caerphilly. Music included in the eighteen hours a day programming ranges from contemporary rock to classical, and from time to time special events are transmitted live, like the Welsh National Opera Concert marking the new season for 1980-81.

Yn ei misoedd cyntaf enillodd Darlledu Caerdydd ei phlwy ymhlith Cymry Cymraeg yr ardal yn gyflym iawn. Llwyddodd y nifer fechan o staff Cymraeg i gyfuno asbri a natur lleol radio annibynol gyda newyddion o Gymru benbaladr. Rhoddwyd sylw helaeth i Eisteddfod yr Urdd ym Mae Colwyn ac hefyd i’r Wŷr Ban Geltaidd yng Nghilliarne. Cynigwyd am y tro cyntaf erioed ar unrhyw orsaf radio wasanaeth newyddion trwy’r dydd. Yn fwy na dim, gwnaethpwyd hyn yn bosibl gan egni ac ymroddiad y cyflwynwyr Cymraeg a chymorth gwerthfawr y gweithdai Cymraeg, lle mae aelodau’r cyhoedd yn leisio barn ar y rhaglenni ac yn rhoi cymorth gwirfoddol a chyngor i’r staff.

IBA Transmitters – Air Date: 11.4.80

VHF (FM with stereo capability): Wenallt (NGR: ST 152 835)
96.0 MHZ Max erp 0.5 kW Circular polarisation
Aerial ht. 243 m aod

MF (medium wave, mono only): Hadfield Road (NGR: ST 165 746)
221 m (1359 kHz) Transmitter power 0.25 kW

IBA Local Advisory Committee
Prof T Hawkes (Chairman); Cllr R Cann; Mrs C Chidgey; Mrs G Clarke; Cllr J Bennett Cotter; Miss D Cross; A Davies; Mrs G Evans; Cllr R H Evans; Mrs N Jenkins; R Mooneram; Cllr J R Phillips; Cllr R J Selwood; Rev D H Thomas; M H Wilcock.
Secretary: E Lewis (IBA Officer for Wales and West of England).

 

You Say

4 responses to this article

Arthur Vasey 6 December 2021 at 4:24 pm

For the non-Welsh speaking folks amongst us, that paragraph in Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh language) translates as follows:

In its first months, Cardiff Broadcasting quickly established itself among the area’s Welsh speakers. The small number of Welsh speaking staff combined the vibrancy and local nature of independent radio with news from across Wales. Extensive attention was given to the Urdd Eisteddfod in Colwyn Bay and also to the Pan Celtic at Kiliarne. Offered for the first time ever on any radio station a daytime news service. Above all, this was made possible by the energy and dedication of the Welsh language presenters and the invaluable support of the Welsh language workshops, where members of the public voice their opinions on the programs and provide voluntary support and advice to staff.

Andy Bell 11 December 2021 at 2:58 am

I was there.
CBC was my first gig – panel operating on Sunday mornings after turning on the studios!! Opping for Alan Taylor (8-10), presenting Canu Mawl (7-8) and Playstreet (10-11). Somehow I got the plumb spot on a Sunday at age 21 and still at uni.
CBC was hobbled by a poor transmission signal and an inexperienced staff. The signal got no better, but the staff learned fast.

When the big snow came we were ready when Cardiff turned to us.
Meithrinfa heb ei ail i lu o ddarlledwyr Cymraeg hefyd.

Keith Martin 18 December 2021 at 8:51 am

What Power!! A quarter of a kilowatt !!! Did anyone manage to hear the fantastic commercials i recorded there for CBC ? They were recorded when i was a free-lance in-vision presenter for HTV. I knew the chief engineer at CBC – Master minded Newton – during my on-air dj periods on Radio Caroline during 1964 and 1965. ps Radio Caroline used a 10 kilowatt transmitter!

James O'Brien 30 December 2021 at 3:01 pm

A fascinating insight into the early years of CBC and to read about the people that made it all happen.I worked there briefly in the late 1990’s while at college studying media doing Broadcast,Programming and Research for both Red Dragon FM and Touch Radio.It was not that long before it was pulled down,such a shame as i really enjoyed my time working there.A very unusual building layout as the studios were on the ground floor and the toilets were on the first floor that always struck me to be a bit odd,strange.I would really love to see more of the CBC studios as well as the building itself before and after CBC moved in if anyone has some to share,i am having a difficult time trying to find any pictures.

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