LBC - Launch Day

Sep 29, 2011, 09:12 PM

Apart from the coloured shirts, platform shoes and bright purple flairs, the early 70s were dark days. Serious industrial unrest and power cuts were not the best economic backdrop for the tardy launch of UK commercial radio. The fact that the medium had become a political football just added to the pressure. 60 stations were planned, although only 19 were to get to air before a review was called.

Having beaten off four rivals for the franchise, LBC was the first station in the network, charged with disseminating news and information to London. The station broadcast from Gough Square on the now familiar 97.3 FM frequency, albeit most listeners were still choosing Medium Wave; and here, the station occupied a temporary frequency of 417m. The press reported the station, with Canadian Investor, Selkirk, had running costs of £1m a year. Michael Cudlipp was Chief Editor at launch, former Deputy Editor of The Times, although his tenure was short: “We’re not going to be trendy or gimmicky”.

LBC came on air on 8th October 1973. The opening jingles, by Robert Farnon, sounded almost as menacing as the economic crisis. This station sounded serious. David Jessel was first on-air; and the news read by Australian Ken Guy. These were two of around 150 staff.

The first ad came, thanks to Birds Eye; as was later the case at Capital too. A decent client; and it was a nice touch that it even mentioned LBC’s launch. I am sure a few IBA executives shuddered when they heard that daring inverse brand integration; and likely enthusiastically drafted another rule.

Hear here a test transmission; the reluctant words of Opposition Leader, Harold Wilson; and the IBA's Tony Stoller, before selected slices of audio, in no particular order, from that mild October day, when 1000 pigeons had been released to mark the birth.