Beacon 303 - Launch medley

Mar 11, 2012, 11:44 AM

The early commercial stations seemed to fall into two camps : those with BBC DNA; and those with the music radio gene. No prizes for guessing which found more regulatory favour.

Beacon launched in 1976 from Wolverhampton - the last in the first (or potentially only) tranche of commercial stations. Unlike all others, it faced significant early commercial competition from its close neighbour BRMB. The Birmingham station, of course, lay in different ownership; as indeed each station did back then. This was the first competitive commercial radio battle.

Behind the scenes, Beacon faced challenges as it battled through the politics of: trying to run a business; please an audience; explain to London ad agencies where Wolverhampton was; and bow to a strict regulator, with none of the objectives aligned. Imagine the firm regulatory hand owning your transmitters; approving your staff; and nodding through your programme schedules. In fairness, Beacon was probably less tolerant of the regulator than many. An American Managing Director, Jay Oliver (who died in 2008), and a Scottish/Canadian Programme Controller, Allen McKenzie, were interesting characters amidst the early UK radio management. Those involved could write a rather more interesting paragraph than this, I suspect, of those early days.

On-air though, this was a slick music radio station from Day One, and the gene from UBN (The closed circuit United Biscuits Network station) can be heard in the opening salvo from Mike Baker; 'Good morning sunshine'. The imaging was superb, with Emison's sunshine jingles seeming peculiarly at odds with a grim '70s Midlands, England. Just maybe this was the wrong station at the wrong time in the wrong City - and in different circumstances it could have reached its potential more easily. But, with seventies commercial radio, one had to seize one's opportunities. Wherever they lay.

On this audio, hear the early management speak of the programme policy; and try to square it with what was 'expected' by the regulator. The Beacon 'programming' theory was sound - a stream of consistent programming, although those words were not appropriate to utter openly for another decade.

Follow my #radiomoments on Twitter on @davidlloydradio and watch this history of the Beacon days