Commercial radio archive opens

The UK’s first online commercial sound archive featuring classic radio programmes broadcast on Independent Local Radio during the 1980s is about to go live, funded by the Arts and Humanities Council.

The ‘Independent Local Radio Sharing Archive — the Felicity Wells Memorial Collection’ was launched by broadcaster, radio historian and academic, Professor Seàn Street, at the RadioCentre in London yesterday.

The project is a partnership between the Centre for Broadcasting History Research at Bournemouth University, and the British Library Sound Archive. It contains broadcast material from local commercial radio stations during the 1980s, including Capital Radio, Piccadilly Radio, Radio Clyde, Red Rose Radio, LBC and 2CR. It demonstrates commercial radio’s programme policy and production methods during the period and as such provides a unique insight into commercial radio’s response to challenging issues during the era.

The archive includes documentaries such as ‘AIDS – The Facts’ (LBC, 1987, when the death toll in the UK was 300 people) and ‘Heroin – the Killing of Christopher’ (Mercia Sound, 1985) as well as plays, phone-ins and interviews.

Project Director, Professor Seàn Street, who wrote the winning bid says "The ‘Independent Local Radio Sharing Archive — the Felicity Wells Memorial Collection’ is a unique online resource available for educational purposes and other non-commercial usage. It contains a wealth of material from the early days of commercial radio including music and speech-based features and documentaries. These were made by the local station and ‘shared’ across the rest of the UK independent radio network – a forerunner to syndicated programming”.

Professor Street continues “This is the end of a long road and the archive is only the first part of a three-part online project to make available UK Commercial Radio's history for educational purposes. In all of this we are grateful to our partners, the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) who have associated the catalogue information and content, and on whose site our collections will be hosted for future generations of radio scholars and historians."

The archive is supported by the UK’s trade body for commercial radio. Commenting on the significance of the archive, Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive of RadioCentre said “The UK’s first online commercial radio sound archive is a fantastic resource which will enable schools, colleges, researchers and broadcasters themselves to access easily and listen to commercial radio programmes from the 1980s. The archive has an abundance of programmes that capture the mood of the time and ensure commercial radio has its rightful place in broadcasting history. We’re absolutely delighted that the archive is being launched at RadioCentre”.

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