Sharing the Best 

23 May 2022


Television & Radio 1983 cover

From Television & Radio 1983, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in December 1982

Though ILR is first and foremost a local medium, particular topics and events sometimes merit being heard beyond the transmission area of the local station: drama, documentary and ‘live’ music recording for instance. Programming of quality deserves a large audience, bringing a flavour of one ILR locality to another and adding variety to stations’ schedules. Rewarding the production effort and skill that has gone into such programmes is also satisfying to the broadcasters who make them.

To meet these demands, an ILR programme-sharing scheme has been established. This is, in the main, a free exchange of programmes between stations. In some areas, listeners have a regular weekly opportunity to hear the best of the output from around the ILR system. Other stations use material more flexibly, slotting features, plays, documentaries and live music into schedules as they fit best. In 1981-82 some 437 hours of programming were offered in the scheme. Almost every station contributed.

BRMB’s three-part series Finger on the Pulse used material recorded at hospitals and general practices in the Birmingham area to illustrate present conditions in the National Health Service. In a similar way, the case history of ‘total allergy syndrome’ sufferer Amanda Strang provided inspiration for Chiltern Radio’s The Man Made Nightmare. Amanda attempted to escape from 20th century existence, and the artificial products causing her suffering, by moving to the village of Denham in the Buckinghamshire countryside.

On a topical note, Essex Radio celebrated Sixty Years of Radio. Broadcasting in the UK began from station 2MT at Writtle near Chelmsford, when a handful of enthusiasts heard the slogan ‘Writtle calling! Writtle calling!’ crackling through the ether. The programme also traced the development of BBC services, the pirate radio stations off Essex in the 1960s, and the development of ILR in the 1970s and 1980s.


Photocomposite of 5 people

Griff Rhys Jones, Mel Smith and Andrew Sachs appeared in a bewildering variety of radio disguises in Tales from the Crypt for Capital Radio.

Courtesy of MrAndonni, with thanks to Joe McNally


A woman shakes the hand of a man

Lynda Crouch of Hereward Radio receives a special award of £250 in the Medical Journalists Association Radio Awards 1982. The subject of her one-hour documentary, offered by Hereward on the ILR programme-sharing scheme, was Diabetes. Lynda is a sufferer herself.

Interviews form a valuable part of the programme-sharing scheme. LBC in London has contributed an hour-long programme on a weekly basis, with personalities as diverse as Catherine Bramwell of the Salvation Army and film star and raconteur Peter Ustinov. The Duke of Edinburgh talked about the work of the World Wildlife Fund. Rock of Ages was a series of discussions from Radio Tees dealing with the spiritual beliefs of major rock stars Yusef Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), Pete Townsend of The Who, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Bob Marley in an interview recorded shortly before his death.

Drama is still an expensive item for most local radio stations although some of the larger stations have made valuable contributions for the ILR system as a whole. Capital Radio has scored some success with the single play: Drew Griffiths’ The Only One South of the River won the drama section of the Local Radio Awards. Capital and Piccadilly Radio also experimented with shorter dramatic pieces to fit into ILR’s general output, and Capital adapted special short thrillers and readings from Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. Piccadilly’s Top Twenty playlets were set in each of the past 20 years and related to a hit single of the year. Something in the Air, for instance, took place on the night man first walked on the moon, and Another Brick in the Wall (1979) considered teenage violence.


Two men stand before an orchestra

Tenor Robert Tear (left) and conductor Sir Colin Davis with the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, at Snape Mattings, Suffolk. This concert was recorded for Capital Radio’s series The Collection. Presented in collaboration with Radio Orwell, the tapes of the performances were made available to other ILR stations.


Drama and narrative used in combination to recount real events is a speciality of some other companies. Radio City contributed Coppers Out!, the story of the 1919 Liverpool Police stroke. Metro Radio’s Hartley Pit Disaster was an evocative and moving treatment of the loss of 200 miners’ lives in the 19th century disaster. It won both the local radio section of the Society of Authors Radio Awards and the documentary category of the Local Radio Awards.


Two women in school uniform with a man in a teacher's robe and motarboard

With the help of singer/songwriter B.A. Robertson, Radio Forth launched a series of promotions to publicise the Scottish Community Education Centre’s booklet for young people aged 16 years and over, entitled Young Scot. The series hoped to give encouragement and information to school-leavers everywhere.


ILR captures musical occasions of national and international significance. Capital Radio offered the Royal Opera Company’s Madam Butterfly, and Tosca in Franco Zeffirelli’s production starring Placido Domingo. Nine of the Great Conductors of the World featured in special concerts for Capital; they included Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti and Britain’s own Sir Colin Davis. Radio 210 in Reading took programme sharing one stage further with ILR’s first contribution to the European Broadcasting Union, recordings of the complete cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas performed by John Lill. In another vein, the same company provided extensive coverage of the annual Reading Rock Festival. Other major artists heard around the ILR system included Neil Sedaka’s appearance in Newcastle, Randy Crawford in Manchester and Charles Aznavour in London.


A man interviews a woman

BRMB’s documentary producer, Brian King, talks with the sister of the Accident & Emergency Department at East Birmingham Hospital in Finger on the Pulse, a series which looked at the National Health Service.


A queue winds up to a cathedral

At the time of the Falklands crisis the memorial for the crew of HMS Sheffield was broadcast live by Radio Hallam and also fed to the USA and other British television and radio services.


Ella Fitzgerald

The ‘queen of jazz’, Miss Ella Fitzgerald, on stage at the Capital Radio Jazz Festival.


You Say

1 response to this article

Arthur Vasey 23 May 2022 at 12:41 pm

Both BBC and local commercial radio stations made programmes with a view to putting them out nationwide, but not at the same time – I can remember hearing a one-off bloopers programme presented by Jonathan Hewat from BBC Radio Bristol being broadcast on BBC Radio Cleveland – Radio Tees often took prerecorded shows from other stations as well – some of the shows broadcast on the BBC local stations were suitable for national broadcast, but no place could be found on a network station – the nature of ILR often saw all kinds of programmes broadcast!

I remember hearing a play on Radio Tees called The Antagonist about a family who buys a mirror that started to display strange behaviour patterns – Radio Tees put it out as a single play one afternoon and Metro serialised it in four parts – I can also recall Radio Tees putting out hour-long plays called Playhouse and a jazz show presented by someone called Alan Rust – I think the entire network, at different times across the weekend, broadcast a topical discussion programme c/o IRN called Decision Makers – very few programmes were broadcast across the network, other than IRN – and not all stations took that, instead creating a hybrid of national and local stories into the same bulletin!

Early attempts at having the network getting together was the original Network Chart Show – which, anywhere outside of the Home Counties, could only be heard in mono, despite the stereo light or indicator indicating otherwise, as they used a landline link which worked adequately for the news, but was inappropriate for music – they now use satellite links!

From about 1986, Metro Radio’s programmes were simulcast on Radio Tees – originally the last hour of Night Owls, followed by their all-night music show – they eventually took the whole show from ten – Alan Robson, who took over from James Whale and still hosts it to this day, was surprised that nobody down in Radio Tees-land phoned in – the only number you could get through on was a Newcastle number, which, in those days, was not cheap – eventually, Tees joined Metro from 7 pm – still claimed that they were broadcasting 24 hours a day! They used a landline for their Metro link, which meant that it was in mono!

Radio Tees is now TFM and BBC Radio Cleveland is now Radio Tees or BBC Tees! Although TFM is really Metro with adverts and travel news for Middlesbrough slotted in without losing the combined service!

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