LBC Radio Rocks!

LBC radio rocks! - Home

History of LBC Radio

LBC, first known as the London Broadcasting Company, has been broadcasting for over 30 years. Over the years there have been various frequencies the station can be heard on, there have been different owners of the station from companies to individuals. LBC was the first legal independent commercial radio station primarily to serve London. The station has had a varied history from being the first to broadcast major world events to briefly losing it's licence. Here we give you the history of LBC radio from it's inception to today.

The idea for LBC

Prior to LBC the only other legal local radio stations were the regional stations broadcast by BBC radio . This generated limited choice and a question of true impartiality arose. The idea soon came for a local commercial station to compete with the BBC offerings. This came from then minister for communications from a trip he made to New York where this type of radio station was thriving. Soon after a licence was granted for a radio station to broadcast to London and the London Broadcasting Company was formed.

The first broadcast

There was much anticipation about LBC and what it would offer Londoner's and many tuned in for it's first broadcast. This was at 6am on a mild for the time of year 8th October 1973. The first 10 minutes was news and particularly the big news story of the moment. This was day three of a Middle Eastern War specifically between Israel and Syria with the rest of the world worried that other Arab states may join in. Aside from the conflict there were congratulatory voices for the launch of the station. These included then prime minister Mr Edward Heath, the leader of the opposition Mr Wilson and other important people pledged their support and encouragement. The launch of this station was significant and the audience and press at the time reflected that. In the first broadcast it clearly states that the aim of LBC radio is to be a news and information service to London. The power of it's news gathering would soon be recognised throughout the media and audience throughout the stations history.

The appeal for LBC remained after it's initial press and broadcast. This was in large part due to the morning drivetime presenters which were Paul Callan and Janet Street Porter (the first female voice heard on LBC radio). The pairing were soon celebrated for their show but the appeal was that they didn't really get along with each other. This would frequently degenerate into a slanging match where the pair would compete to make the best put down. Word soon spread of this essential listen and it's comedic value.

LBC as a news gathering organisation

LBC as a news gathering and reporting organisation is second to none. A current show would be stopped and interrupted should a news story be big enough to warrant it. This meant that when a worldwide event occurred LBC was regularly the first radio station in Britain to report the story. This status is highly sought after in the media and this local station was it. Notable firsts include the coverage of the Iranian Embassy siege. This was reported live as it happened by an LBC reporter. In 1982 LBC reported on the Falklands conflict. They had reporters in both the Falkland Islands and Argentina giving a valuable overview of the whole situation. An LBC reporter won an award for the "insightful" reporting of the King's Cross tube station fire in 1988.

LBC is now widely acknowledged as the first radio station in Britain to report the death of Princess Diana. At around 1am on 31st August 1997 LBC dropped it's normal programme off the air and for the next 5 hours reported news of the death of the Princess. The report reflected the feelings of it's audience and is recognised industry wide and by sociological experts as an example of how to broadcast such a major event.

The world trade centre attacks of 11th September 2001 were reported by LBC's New York correspondent Alan Capper just two minutes after the first plane struck. Despite the producer at the time first thinking that this was just a light aeroplane crashing into the building the presenter insisted the correspondent speak live on air immediately. The full horror and enormity of the situation soon became apparent as the correspondent described what he saw, "...a jet plane flew low over the New York skyline and into one of the world trade centre buildings around 20 floors below the roof...".

Advertising on LBC

Being the first commercial radio station meant that LBC would broadcast advertisements as a way of making money. Radio advertising was virtually unheard of in th UK prior to this as the only other radio stations were owned and run by the BBC which is non commercial and paid for by UK tax payers. Although advertisers were keen to tap into LBC's demographic they were not very adept at using the medium. Alot of early advertisements on LBC were merely the soundtrack to the advertisers television commercial. As time went on the industry soon began to appreciate radio advertising and the ways a product or service can be promoted. Using the power of sound and especially the listeners imagination radio adverts soon became far more powerful. Many corporations now incorporate radio advertising as an essential part of their advertising budget.

Company history

At it's beginning in 1973 and through to October 1989 LBC was broadcast on the AM frequency only to London. In October 1989 the service was split into two radio stations. One was broadcast on the FM frequency and the AM broadcast remained with different shows on each service. This had a detrimental effect on LBC by halving it's audience for each service. Not only that, the owners confused the loyal listeners by giving an odd name to the FM broadcast and renaming the AM broadcast altogether. Running the equivalent of two radio stations also nearly doubles expenditure and the parent company struggled to stay afloat. This came to a conclusion when LBC failed to have its licence renewed for both it's FM and AM services. The licence's were granted again soon after to a consortium of former staff backed by Guinness Mahon under the name London News Radio using the same frequencies. Soon after the company was bought by news organisation Reuters and the LBC name was never used on air from October 1994 to July 1996. From July 1996 a consortium of companies bought a share from Reuters and it was decided that the LBC brand be used again. This was how LBC remained until the end of 2002 when the company was bought by the Chrysalis Group who owned it until they sold it along with their other radio stations for a total of £170 million on 25th June 2007. For further details and comment see further down this page for the update.

The Chrysalis Group

Chrysalis is a media organisation who is one of the big three radio groups in the UK. They operate and run various radio stations across the UK including the Heart, Galaxy and LBC group of stations. Chrysalis is also a worldwide music publishing company with some major artists on their books. These include recent acts like Robbie Williams and Outkast to older favourites such as David Bowie and Blondie. Chrysalis still runs LBC today as LBC 97.3 on the FM frequency and LBC News 1152 on the AM frequency.

LBC the name is no longer an abbreviation and serves Chrysalis as a brand name. The two LBC stations still broadcast different programmes to each other. The LBC 97.3 FM service is a talk radio station (this website is primarily based on this service). It has various presenters every 2 to 3 hours and takes callers live on air for topical discussions. News, travel and weather is reported every hour and a programme is still interrupted should a major news event occur. The LBC News 1152 AM service is as the name suggests a 24 hour news broadcast. This includes business news early in the morning, some global and London news throughout the day and showbiz news later in the evening.

Update, May 2007: LBC as a brand and not part of an abbreviation is no longer the case. As of early May 2007, LBC now stands for London's Biggest Conversation instead of the early incarnation London Broadcasting Company. The logo remains unchanged but marketing and management at Chrysalis obviously felt something could be done with LBC as an abbreviation and this serves as a punchy title as to what LBC is all about.

Update, 25th June 2007: The parent company of LBC radio is part of a subsidiary of the Chrysalis Group which is Chrysalis Radio. As of today Chrysalis Radio has now been bought by Global Radio for £170 million netting Chrysalis a profit of £95 million on the deal. This means that Heart, Galaxy and the LBC brands are now owned by Global Radio. The purchase has only just gone through so as yet there are no announcements as to what the new owners plan to with their purchase, but with LBC attracting a good listenership around the country now thanks to DAB, plus profits are showing through the bottom line, any intervention should be minimal. Who knows there could even be an investment in LBC.

The future

LBC is now broadcasting to a wider audience by transmitting on DAB digital radio to various parts of the UK. There is also a transmission on Sky which any Sky subscriber can enjoy on Sky digital channel 0177. LBC also broadcasts on the internet so anyone worldwide can hear. LBC's audience and radio audience share is currently growing as the latest figures show. LBC has also gained success within the industry after the Nick Ferrari Breakfast Show was awarded with a prestigious gold Sony Radio Academy Award. With a parent company committed to radio stations and a good management team in place LBC's future looks bright. For it's loyal listenership who know and love LBC this can only be a good thing.

Recommended history of LBC radio resources

  • History of LBC at Mediauk.com - This shows the very first schedule broadcast on LBC and a clear chronology of the company history.
  • History of LBC and IRN - This gives a very detailed and fascinating look at LBC and how they reported the news and major events between 1973 and 1993.

LBC radio rocks! - Home

Copyright © 2006 Sot Media. All rights reserved.