Extension of Independent Local Radio 

23 January 2023 tbs.pm/76561


Television & Radio 1982 cover

From Television & Radio 1982

In July 1981 the Home Secretary approved proposals for the creation of ILR services in 25 more locations, bringing the authorised total to 69 stations. This further extension of ILR is indeed an exciting prospect. It comes at a time when the need for self-financing local radio has never been greater, and when its contribution to local life is being demonstrated over and over again. The IBA looks forward to this new challenge.

Completion will take well into the 1980s, even if the present economic climate improves; but such problems have not so far prevented experimentation and the enhancement of the services being offered to the public. Research has shown that ILR has maintained a high level of appeal among its listeners, who value especially the localness of the output and the friendly, informal style. This record of steady progress could not have been achieved without the hard work and skill of the broadcasters, journalists, managers, directors and other staff within the individual programme companies.

The original 19 stations came into operation from 1973-76. These were joined by a further seven during 1980 and development continued during 1981 with stations in seven more areas: Aberdeen, Leeds, Leicester, Southend/Chelmsford, Luton/Bedford, Bristol and Ayr. Moray Firth Radio in Inverness should come on air around, or soon after, the turn of the year. A further six stations are expected to start broadcasting during 1982 to serve Wrexham & Deeside, Swindon/West Wiltshire, Bury St. Edmunds, Hereford/Worcester, Preston & Blackpool and Londonderry. In total, by about the end of 1982, there should be 40 stations broadcasting.

The IBA warmly welcomed the Home Secretary’s authorisation of 25 further Independent Local Radio stations in July 1981 following the Third Report of the Home Office Local Radio Working Party, published in December 1980. Sir Brian Young, the IBA’s Director General, said: ‘We know how much the ILR services have been appreciated in those areas where they have already been provided. It is good news that a further 25 localities can now be covered, with the prospect of virtually the whole of the United Kingdom having ILR during the 1980s.’

Map of the UK with ILR station locations plotted

IBA Plans for Local Station

The advertising of contracts for the new batch of stations is starting as soon as transmitter sites are acquired and planning permissions finalised in consultation with local authorities, and as suitable frequencies, MF and VHF, can be assigned by the Government.

The new locations named by the Home Secretary are, in alphabetical order: Aylesbury; Basingstoke & Andover; The Borders (Hawick) with Berwick; Brighton; Cambridge & Newmarket; Derby; Dorchester/Weymouth; Eastbourne/Hastings; Great Yarmouth & Norwich; Hertford & Harlow; Huddersfield/Halifax (possibly extending Bradford ILR service); Humberside; Maidstone & Medway; Milton Keynes; Northampton; North West Wales (Conway); Oxford/Banbury; Redruth/Falmouth/Penzance/Truro; Reigate & Crawley; Shrewsbury & Telford; Southampton; Stoke; Stranraer/Dumfries/Galloway; Whitehaven & Workington/Carlisle; and Yeovil/Taunton.

Where a single town or area is mentioned (e.g. Aylesbury, Humberside) the Authority has chosen that town or area as the focal point of a service to be transmitted on one pair (VHF and MF) of transmitters. Where two areas are linked by an ampersand (&) the Authority wishes the coverage area of the service to include both towns, and hopes to meet the commitment with one pair of transmitters. In areas where an oblique stroke is used (e.g. Eastbourne/Hastings), the Authority hopes to serve the places mentioned by one programme company but may need to use two (or sometimes more) pairs of transmitters. If so, separate programming from each town may be incorporated. Within these general descriptions there are other variations which the Authority may select to meet each particular requirement.

The Authority fully appreciates that not all areas listed are capable, under present economic conditions, of sustaining a wholly independent ILR station. There is no defined predicted population coverage figure which will permit a separate operation. Each location has particular characteristics which have to be taken into account. In many instances it may be possible to offer a contract on the basis of some broadcasting and/or support arrangements with a neighbouring ILR station. This may take the form of a merged corporate identity or it may be on the basis of a ‘services rendered’ agreement. The Authority will study each proposal carefully and will instigate whatever arrangements are practicable, effective and within the contractual structure which the IBA now has to follow.

One of the factors which will determine the speed with which the IBA develops new contract areas is the availability both of skilled radio journalists and of local broadcasters. So far those who have been in Independent Local Radio for some time have managed, often with great aptitude and enthusiasm, to ‘bring on the young’. The emphasis on training and the financial support channelled by the Authority to this aspect is now a very significant factor in the forward strategy.


Logos of the 40 ILR stations


As more stations are developed so the ILR system will offer much greater national coverage to advertisers; and, above all, the aim will be to provide the ILR service to virtually the whole of the United Kingdom, thus meeting the requirements of the Act of Parliament and creating the appropriate local preconditions for the many groups wishing to establish self-financing ILR companies in their localities. Companies are considering these opportunities and making their plans. A prosperous, effective, socially conscious Independent Local Radio system can thus enable the IBA to extend ILR to sparsely populated areas. This is one of the many challenges in the years ahead.


You Say

3 responses to this article

Paul Bainbridge 23 January 2023 at 3:18 pm

Of course, what was hoped to be advertised/awarded was one thing, what actually happened was another thing. The Scottish Borders area didn’t launch until 1990, the Cumbria area would have to wait another 10 years before CFM started & even then it was only for part of the county.

In the end, many of the areas listed would be little more than extensions of the current ILR services or an opt-out service from an existing service (such as Orwell in the case of Bury St. Edmunds).

Kevin Chamberlain 28 January 2023 at 2:52 pm

One notable entry in the list of new stations is Centre Radio in Leicester. Having started broadcasting in September 83 it became the first ILR station to close down, having existed for only 2 years.

Kevin Chamberlain 29 January 2023 at 1:20 pm

Just noticed an error in my previous post….Centre Radio started in September 1981, not 83.

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Thursday 16 May 2024