Information sources for the study of the history of Independent Radio in Britain.

One of the challenges of the Independent Radio projects is to create a historical context for student and research users of the digitised material audio. The literature in this area is thin compared for example to books and journal articles on broadcasting in general, and the history of Independent Television or the BBC. There are notable exceptions, Sean Street’s A concise history of British radio (2002), Tim Crook’s History and Development of Independent Radio Journalism in Britain (1999) and Meg Carters brief history of the first 30 years of independent radio (2003). It posses a question, is it possible to research from secondary (printed material, documents and multimedia) sources a history of Independent Radio?

The answer is thankfully yes. Any researcher could start with Barrie Macdonald’s Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (1993) a comprehensive guide to the literature which includes independent radio. The other key publication which covers almost exactly the period of interest is Langham and Chrichley’s bibliography Radio Research (1989). The following is a ‘bare bones’ structure with some additional notes particular to independent radio.

Official Publications These include: Bills and Acts, White Papers, Green Papers, reports of committees and parliamentary debates. There is an exhaustive list in MacDonald (1993) and with advances in technology a significant proportion are now available online. Harder to locate are public responses to government by the broadcasting industry and the IBA. Some were issued as publications and pamphlets or published in the IBA magazines Independent Broadcasting and Airwaves.

Corporate Archives These include the archives of Independent Local Radio (ILR) Companies and those of the regulators with responsibility for radio the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) 1972 – 1990 and the Radio Authority (RA) 1991 – 2003. Unfortunately it is hard to say to what extent any archival material from ILR Companies survives. The consolidation in the ILR companies from many to a very few owners probably means that a lot of material is lost. However, in a heavily regulated industry a significant amount of material will reside in the IBA archives in the form of license applications and other types of reporting. The IBA corporate archives is complete, with a generous commitment from OFCOM to seek ways to make it accessible for research.

Publications of the regulator Annual Reports from the IBA 1973 – 1990, and the annual IBA handbooks. ITV75 is the first handbook to include information on independent radio which was fully integrated into Television & Radio 1976 – 1990. The IBA magazines Independent Broadcasting Aug.1974-Sep.1984 and Airwaves 1984 – 1990. Each issue had one or two articles on radio and included radio in articles on the general debates of the day. The two magazines had a very distinctive style, Independent Broadcasting for example included the text of lectures given by members of the IBA, Airwaves had more features and factual information.

Press and Magazine Publications Independent radio was covered by Admap – 1964 – , Broadcast 1960 – , Now Radio 1986 – ceased publication sometime in the early 1990’s and the Radio Academy’s magazine Radio 1984 – . The IBA newspaper clippings archive for independent radio, is currently deposited with Bournemouth University Library.

Audience Research Audience research data was produced by the Joint Industry Committee for Radio Audience Research (JICRAR) 1974 – 1992. The IBA Audience Research Department also conducted audience research on audience attitudes and patterns of listening.

Audio Access to audio recordings is essential to get a true understanding of Independent Radio. The three projects covered by this blog will make available online 1000’s of recordings from the beginning of Independent Radio (1973) to 1990.

Bournemouth University Library has made a concerted effort to collect publications associated with the history of Independent Radio. Although a search of COPAC shows that many publications remain in national libraries and libraries in the HE sector.


Crook, T., 1999. History and Development of Independent Radio Journalism in Britain. In: Crook, T. ed. International Radio Journalism. London: Routledge, 261 – 280.
Carter, M., 2003. Independent Radio: The First 30 years. London: Radio Authority.
Langham, J. & Chrichley, J., 1989. Radio Research: an annotated Bibliography 1975 – 1988. 2nd ed. London: Radio Academy and IBA.
MacDonald, B., 1993. Broadcasting in the United Kingdom. A guide to information sources. 2nd ed. London: Mansell.
Street, S., 2002. A concise history of British radio, 1922-2002. Tiverton: Kelly Publications.


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