Archive for the ‘Felicity Wells Archive’ Category

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.


Felicity Wells Memorial Archive

Felicity Wells was an employee of the Association of Independent Radio Contractors [AIRC] in charge of organising the Programme Sharing Scheme. Sadly she died prematurely in the 1990s. The archive is named after her in recognition of her contribution.The scheme, organised initially by the Independent Broadcasting Authority [IBA] and subsequently by the AIRC, encompassed a concept which enabled features, drama, music and news producers working in commercial radio around Britain to offer material – including a significant body of speech-based programming produced locally – to other stations.

The information was circulated via a ‘Programme Sharing Sheet’ and programmes were copied and distributed to interested stations by the AIRC. No moneys exchanged hands and programming was thus available to less prosperous stations on a ‘quality only’ basis.

The scheme also enabled many producers on small stations to gain national recognition for their work. As a result, many subsequently progressed to distinguished broadcasting careers.

Felicity Wells wrote an article – Recent Development in ILR Programme – in Independent Broadcasting, the magazine of the IBA, describing the work of the archive. The article was written in 1984, fairly early the life of the AIRC Programme Sharing Scheme which ran from 1983 – 1990. It gives some insight into the motivations for starting the scheme, and the contributions from ILR which were considered important at the time.

The tapes from the Programme Sharing Scheme were digitised with a grant from the AHRC and are availble from the BUFVC Radio.  Requires an ATHENS Login.


Copyright for the article resides with OFCOM.

Selection, Digitisation and Technological Determinism

Technological determinism (1) was the accusation directed at this blogger by a media academic, prompted by the suggestion in a conference paper that it would soon be possible and desirable to digitse everything – negating the need for any selection of material for digitisation. While the capacity to store and serve data could probably now accommodate this proposal, other factors such as finance and human resources that are placing limits on the scale of digitisation.

At some point digitisation projects have to engage with selection to fit the volume of digitisation (measured in this case as the number of reeel-to-reel tapes) to the budget. Two of the independent radio projects have applied an explicit selection policy, The South Southern Local Radio Digitisation Project and the LBC/IRN Project. Policies combine qualitative judgment of senior radio academics with broad brush criteria. For example priority was given to news and current affairs, and material from the 1970’s where very little survives. The other project The Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Project: Felicity Wells Memorial Archive was itself a product of selection, the best local radio from around United Kingdom and has been digitised in its entirety.

However, before collections get as far as being digitised they have been subject to the attrition of random choices and accidents. The LBC/IRN archive was occasionally weeded to physically reduce the size of the collection. The archiving of local radio is notoriously unreliable, only the pro-active intervention of the Wessex Film and Sound Archive [WFSA] saved much of the material that forms the South Southern Local Radio Digitisation Project.

Selection is not the end of the story. The reel-to-reel tapes in these projects have not been destroyed but archived or returned to their original location. However, the motivation to revisit these collections and complete the digitisation process – and all the work that entails in raising finance – may not be as strong as the first impetus to create a digitisation project. Selection rightly or wrongly implies the best material has been digitised.

Where does that leave us? Well, it might be contingent on those making bids for digitisation to leave the door open for further bids. However, funding bodies, and you can see their point of view, are by their nature not incremental. Bids have to have a complete package with one shot at delivering a complete and polished product to end users. This means that money that might be used to digitise material that no end user might hear (or see or read), has to be used to buy the capability to deliver material over the web. Ultimately we rely on libraries, universities and archives to see the value (as Bournemouth University has done) in retaining analogue material for the future.

(1) “until the mid-1980s, technological determinism was the most popular and influential theory of the relationship between technology and society. Technological determinism views the development and diffusion of technology as developing independently of society, but producing societal effects.” (Shade 2007, line 1, papa 1).

Shade, L.R., 2007. Technological Determinism. Encyclopedia of New Media. 2007. London: SAGE. Available from: [Accessed: 11 June 2008].

Please complete our survey

The independent radio project aims to join together 3 collections of independent radio, The Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Archive: The Felicity Wells Memorial Collection [AHRC], the South Southern Local Radio Digitisation Project [AHRC] and the LBC/IRN Digitisation Project [JISC].

We are fortunate to already have one of these database up and running in a beta form  – The Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Archive: The Felicity Wells Memorial Collection – also with a link from the Resources section of this blog. We are asking you to login to this resource, have a look at the collection and give us your feedback. There is a link to the Survey on the  The Independent Local Radio Programme Sharing Archive home page. You will need a current ATHENS Personal Account to access.