|DOUBLING UP - How
Divided Up Their Medium Wave and VHF
- A New Wave Of Listening
|ILR & THE
SPLITTING OF THE WAVEBANDS
the inception of Independent Local Radio (ILR) in 1973 the IBA made
arrangements to broadcast the stations on two wavebands - Medium Wave
(using AM) and VHF (using FM) - this is called
This followed in the footsteps of the BBC which also transmitted many
of its stations on both AM and FM. For example at the time
Radio Two principally used 1500 meters (200kHz) AM Long Wave
well as 88 to 90.1 MHz VHF / FM. BBC Radio Three used 464
(647 kHz) Medium Wave together with 90.2 to 92.3 MHz VHF /
BBC Radio Four used 433, 330 and 285 meters (692, 908 and 1052 kHz) AM
Medium Wave together with 92.4 to 94.5 MHz VHF / FM. The BBC
also begun to transmit its own local radio stations on both VHF and
This practice remained in place for the IBA's ILR stations for a decade
- the government's Home Office actually frowned upon the idea and
dismissed the possibility of ILR stations broadcasting different
programmes on the Medium Wave and VHF transmitters. Then, by
mid 1980's the mood changed, the IBA was allowed to encourage some
stations a limited number of hours to transmit different programme
output on their FM and AM frequencies.
was one of the first to experiment with separate programmes, as Mike
Lloyd, who worked for Radio
between 1979 and 1986, explains: "Festival
Radio was the first split frequency experiment in the UK, running
during the Edinburgh Festivals of – if memory serves
– 1984 an 1985.
The station won a Sony gold for the event of which I was one of two
production co-ordinators, along with Colin Somerville. FCR
created by Forth’s imaginative and somewhat whacky programme
controller, Tom Steele and all credit to him. It was
CITY RADIO - EDINBURGH (Radio
Every year the Edinburgh
Festival attracts thousands of
arts enthusiasts from around the world. In response, Radio Forth
launched a new radio service, aimed at promoting Festival activities to
both visitors and local people. Festival City Radio was on air for
seven and a half hours each day. The magazine based service included
recordings of music from the Festival shows and even had its own
resident jazz band, the 'Festival Radio Stompers'. In this novel
experiment, the special output was carried over the station's VHF
frequency, while normal programming continued on medium wave.
the Festival came with the firework concert and display,
watched by a 150,000-strong crowd in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle and
Radio won the title of Best Magazine Programme at the
1985 Sony Radio Awards. With its financial backing from 'British
Airways Super Shuttle' this was the first co-funded project to win a
major radio award.
Sometimes Independent Local Radio stations fill the role of 'sponsors'
of the arts themselves. Radio City, for example, has gained an enviable
reputation for arts sponsorship on Merseyside. As well as staging and
broadcasting the Radio City Proms, now a regular feature of the
NorthWest musical calendar, the station has become involved in
ambitious projects with leading British dance companies.
The initial approach came from London Contemporary Dance Theatre (LCDT)
with whom City had already established a working relationship during
their regular visits to Liverpool. A Chance to Dance introduced local
youngsters to the world of contemporary dance. A series of afternoon
classes held by LCDT staff was promoted by Radio City each morning over
the course of a week, and young people were invited to write in and
explain why they would like to take part. The response was greater than
either LCDT or Radio City had hoped, attracting over 1,200 entries.
Eighty successful applicants were encouraged, cajoled and at times
bullied by their choreographers, so that no one was left in any doubt
about the level of fitness contemporary dance demands!
Radio City sees a number of benefits in supporting arts activities but
principally as a valuable source of programme material. Concerts,
exhibitions and dance competitions make interesting, participative
radio programmes. They also enable the station to extend its own
participation within the community and create new opportunities for
THE ILR EXPERIMENT
The IBA explained: The first steps were taken in 1986 when the Home
Office permitted six
experiments to be run for a limited period of time where stations were
allowed to use "split frequency
Leicester Sound was been able to increase its programming specifically
for the Asian community from five to seven hours, and from two to three
days a week. Scheduling these programmes on AM has enabled the
much-requested fuller coverage of rock and disco music on FM.
For Piccadilly Radio, in Manchester, the experiment provided the
opportunity to cater for classical music enthusiasts. The station
recorded three Hallé Orchestra concerts during its 1986
Material in the Hallé programme informed concert-goers of
broadcasts. The audience at the 'Last Night of the Proms' was able to
listen again to the concert 30 minutes after it had finished, while
driving home from the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Two more concerts
were broadcast on sequential Sundays.
Every Sunday afternoon, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., during the Rugby
League season, Viking Radio in Humberside split to present country
music with Tex Milne on FM, whilst covering Rugby Lea ball particularly
Hull Football Club and Hull Kingston Rovers, on AM.
Asian programme team. Left to right are: Chris Taylor, Deedar
Bahra, producer Don Kotak and presenter Tochi Singh. (IBA)
of the season! Viking Radio reporting on the
1986 Challenge Cup final, at Wembley, where Hull Kingston Rovers,
disappointingly for supporters, lost by just one point. (IBA)
West Wiltshire and the Bristol provided did split programming on three
separate days for different audience interests. On Thursday evenings
between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., folk music featured on the AM service
whilst Worldwide music and interviews, primarily for the West Indian
and Asian communities, was broadcast on FM Between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
while on Saturdays 'golden oldies' records played juke-box style on AM
with country music on the FM frequency. On Sundays, a half an hour of
farming news was broadcast on FM in the early afternoon. Later that
evening, FM listeners could hear rock'n roll at 8 p.m. or tune into the
religious programme "Sunday PM" on the AM frequencies.
Marcher Sound, the local station for Wrexham & Deeside,
separate service in Welsh for its listeners on the 1260 AM transmitter
each weekday evening at 6 p.m.
Capital Radio in London chose to create a new sound on FM between 10
a.m. and 10 p.m. every Sunday, coming together with AM for The Network
Tony Hale, Capital's Head of Music, decided to call the new service
"CFM" and it began on 4th May 1986: ' With CFM Capital intended to
provide more output to the 'quality music'. No longer was the listener
who was ready and able to buy good quality equipment forced to listen
to a diet of Top 40, that might as well have been on AM only. All those
compact discs of the acts you would love to be able to go and see at
Wembley were now available on CFM.
Tony explained '...those disenfranchised radio listeners of the 60s
will go for it. They are 20 years on from their first experience of
radio ... and people call them yuppies. They are listeners ... and CFM
95.8 in super stereo in London is for them'.
The success of these experimental split frequency broadcasts turned the
tide as far as the Home Office was concerned. By 1988, far from being
wary of stations providing differing programmes on Am and FM, the
went as far as to declare the end of simulcasting, and unless ILR
stations could provide different programming
on each of their wavebands they would forfiet permission to broadcast
on both FM and AM. This new policy led to a new breed of ILR
service - the "gold" format radio station.
In August 1988 BRMB in Birmingham trialled split frequency broadcasting
GOLD' presented by Robin Valk on 1152 kHz AM from 6pm to 7pm, while
on 96.4 MHz FM at 6pm for thirty minutes followed by the The John
Slater Show at 6.30 pm. This trial led to the start of a
permanent split of BRMB's FM and AM transmitters in April 1989 with
opening of a new AM station called XTRA
Read more about XTRA AM HERE.
Not only did ILR have to reconsider its use of AM and FM, but BBC Radio
also had to change and adapt. The government decided that the
could not justifiably continue simulcasting all of its radio stations
on both FM and AM.
In 1989 BBC Radio One was in the embryonic stages of opening a full
national network of FM transmitters to bring stereo transmissions to
the whole of the UK and thereby provide FM coverage equivalent to that
of BBC Radios Two, Three and Four. This large expansion
would not be complete until the early to mid 1990's, at which point the
BBC would have to switch off its Radio One transmitters on 1053 and
1089 kHz Medium Wave to make these frequencies available to a new Radio
Authority to licence and Independent (commercial) National Radio
Additionally BBC Radio Three would have to relinquish 1215 kHz to
another Independent National Radio station. Radio Two would
vacate 693 and 909 kHz and a new BBC radio station would be established
- called RADIO FIVE.
The BBC would be allowed to keep BBC Radio Four on both
and 198 kHz Long Wave, presumably because a single Long Wave
transmitter could be used to broadcast to the entire UK in the event of
a national catastrophe.
A government Green Papaer on the future of broadcasting was published
in 1987 and this gave rise to the Broadcasting Act of 1990 which
abolished the IBA (the body previously responsible for commercial TV
and Radio broadcasting in the UK) and established the ITC (Independent
Television Commission) to oversee commercial television licencing and a
new 'lighter touch' Radio Authority to oversee a more deregulated
commercial radio environment. The Radio Authority would not
oversee a dramatic expansion in the number of (single waveband) ILR
stations coming on air, but also the addition of Independent National
Radio (INR) to the UK broadcasting scene.
INR1 was to be FM only and a non-pop station and "CLASSIC FM" won that
licence. INR2 and 3 were to be the stations that would occupy
Medium Wave frequencies relinquished by the BBC. INR2 would
1215 kHz and 'Independent Music Radio' won that licence and commenced
broadcasts in 1993 as "VIRGIN 1215". INR 3 was licenced to
RADIO UK" which opened in 1995.
So to be able to receive all the radio services available in the UK
today listeners really need to have a radio that tunes all three
domestic wavebands; Long Wave, Medium Wave and FM -
mention the new digital medium of DAB Digital Radio. (More
about DAB - HERE )
And as a foot-note it is worth mentioning that the Radio Authority and
the ITC , along with Oftel and the Radio Communications Agency, were
all abolished and replaced with a new amalgamated body to oversee
the radio spectrum, telecommunications and broadcasting called OFCOM.
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