All through the night 

13 February 2023 tbs.pm/76935

 

Cover of Television & Radio 1979

From ‘Television & Radio 1979’, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in December 1978

With the advent of Britain’s first Independent Local Radio stations in the autumn of 1973 came the country’s only home-grown 24-hour broadcasting service serving specific areas of the British Isles. The pioneering stations in London – London Broadcasting Company (LBC) and Capital Radio – set a trend which other Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations followed as soon as they came on-air or as soon as possible thereafter. Hence, Liverpool with Radio City, Manchester with Piccadilly Radio, Glasgow with Radio Clyde and Birmingham with BRMB all benefited from round-the-clock radio by 1976. Three further established stations – Radio Tees, Metro Radio and Radio Hallam – have since extended their broadcasting hours to provide such a service for their listeners in the Cleveland, Tyne/Wear and Sheffield areas respectively; and now joined by Beacon Radio.

As a focal point for their local communities, ILR stations may well wish to reflect the hours that local people keep. In the large conurbations especially, there is a need among many listeners for the sort of help, information, diversion and companionship which ILR can provide so well. A 24-hour service makes stern demands upon the stations themselves. Yet even with their relatively small staffs the full-time stations set out to ensure that radio – like the other essential services – is ever present.

A man in headphones sits at a radio desk

Terry Griffiths of BRMB Radio is at work all through the night from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., Monday to Friday.

All the ILR stations offer services through the day. None of the nineteen companies now broadcasts for less than eighteen hours a day through the week, and all are broadcasting their own programming rather than relaying a non-local service. The overnight service in particular provides an opportunity for those who work at night – like shift workers in factories, nightwatchmen, lorry drivers and others – to catch up on the news and items of interest which they would otherwise miss during the day. Most stations, therefore, repeat some of the day’s features such as public service items, consumer information, sports reports, interviews with guest experts, film and book reviews, recipes, leisure activities and job opportunities.

The very latest news is available through the Independent Radio News service, which operates throughout the day and night. Those listening after midnight often hear the first of the new day’s news, which often may include items ‘embargoed’ until that hour. During the succeeding hours, the time difference allows foreign news stories to be followed with actuality reports or bulletins as they break. Articles in the ‘Fleet Street’ editions of the day’s papers may be investigated and discussed before being read by the majority of the population. These subjects, and others, regularly form the immediate topics for discussion in late night/early morning phone-ins, when the listener has the chance to participate in the programming of the radio station by expressing his or her point of view.

James Whale head and shoulders shot

The late-night phone-in presenter of Metro Radio is James Whale, on air from 11.15 p.m. to 2 a.m.

For the more languid listener, unable to sleep or seeking some less thought-provoking entertainment, a suitable piece of music is normally the answer. The choice, in deference to the early hours, is more often than not what is termed ‘easy listening’ – designed to appeal to all tastes and ranging over orchestrations of popular records, soloists like Jack Jones and groups such as The Carpenters. ‘Live’ sessions performed by local musicians, time devoted to a particular specialist music interest like jazz or the ‘blues’, or the music soundtrack of cinema films form regular music interludes over the week. Sometimes there are short comedy sketches and humour to liven up the small hours.

Whatever the individual personal preference, overnight broadcasting aims to provide something of interest to anyone available to listen – whether that person is a stranger in town getting to know the area and things happening within it through the what’s on, someone requiring details of all-night services like the open chemists, the insomniac or late-night worker wanting fellowship, relaxation or divertisement [sic]. On-air or off-air (in the case of Capital Radio’s Helpline, for example) several ILR radio stations are on duty and ready to try and be of help through the night just as they are during the day.

 

 

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