Capital Radio London: The Early Days

The low powered broadcasts continued into 1974, until the new masts were finally built at Saffron Green (North London). As Capital 95.8 FM, it not only broadcasts to London, but its modern day owners are currently planning to launch it nationally, presumably as competition to BBC Radio 1.

Once gaining power, the new Conservative governments Sound Broadcasting Act (1972) brought about the introduction of the Independent Radio Authority, whose remit was to advertise the 19 broadcasting radio licences available to 18 areas of the UK. At that time the stations frequency changed to 194 meters (1546 kHz).

The first independent local radio station, the news oriented London Broadcasting (LBC), went on air at 6am on October 8th 1973, Capital Radio, followed a week later.

Launch and Early Broadcasts

At 5am on the 16th October 1973, the station went on air, firstly playing the National Anthem, followed by a message from the chairman. Specialist music programmes (such as Jazz and classical music), radio plays, arts magazines and news documentaries were also broadcast in the early days, as Capital lived up to their licence providing a general entertainment station.. The first days playlist is available by clicking here

Richard Attenborough After the outlawing of offshore pirate radio stations in 1967 and the re-branding of the existing BBC radio stations, the Conservative party, in their 1970 election manifesto, promised the introduction of local commercial radio to the UK.

The 1990 Broadcasting Act put an end to independent stations simulcasting the same content on both FM and medium wave, in an attempt to give more listening choice. This happened because of the low power that the station was being broadcast at initially and continued until the new masts were built and the frequency changed.

Innovative Broadcasting

Many features that have become commonplace on British radio stations in recent years were first heard on Capital:

The Flying Eye was an aeroplane giving up to date travel news in the rush hours.A flat share list was produced twice a week, for listeners looking for accommodation within the city and beyond.Daily shopping tips and price changes were broadcast on the mid-morning show.A jobmate scheme was introduced trying to pair unemployed younger people with older volunteers for help and advice in looking for work.The station purchased the Duke of Yorks Theatre in 1978 where they staged plays, concerts and debates.A charity, Help a London Child, was set up, culminating in a radio appeal lasting over the Easter period every year.A phone in show was broadcast on weekday evenings, featuring personal, emotional and sexual problems with Anna Raeburn and the Capital Doctor each Wednesday.The Sunday Soapbox was broadcast weekly, giving anyone the opportunity to talk for 5 minutes about anything that made them angry.Capital Radio Today

Capital Radio continues to this day, albeit now only to be found on the FM band (it is available on other platforms such as DAB radio, satellite, cable and the internet however). Then came a specially written jingle performed by Blue Mink and then the first record was played which was Simon and Garfunkels Bridge Over Trouble Water. It is still to be found on the medium wave at 194 meters (1546 kHz).

Related ArticlesSources and Suggested Further ReadingTony Stoller (2010) Sounds of Your Life: A History of Independent Radio in the UK (John Libbey Publishing Ltd). The first commercial to be heard on Capital Radio was for Birds Eye Fish Fingers which co-incidentally was also the 1st commercial on LBC.

There were 50 applications for the general entertainment licence, including a high profile bid by a consortium led by Hughie Green (of Opportunity Knocks fame), who had previously worked at Radio Luxembourg. The successful group were led by dentist Barclay Barclay-White and chaired by film director/star Richard Attenborough. Capital Gold came into being at that time with a golden oldies format and has now merged with Classic Gold to form Gold Radio. The one area which was to be granted 2 licences was London (and the Home Counties), where one station would concentrate on a news and talk format and the other a general entertainment output.

In order that the station could start its broadcasts on time, the IBA hastily installed transmitters and a T aerial between two chimneys at the Lots Road power station in Chelsea. MDS 975 (Mike Smiths excellent site, categorising the history of UK radio)

Immediately after going on air, Capital Radio suffered cross channel interference from Dutch offshore pirate station Radio Veronica. Capital Radio was born and the test broadcasts began.

A selection of Capital Radio sound clips are available by clicking here

Transmitter and Frequency Difficulties

Capital started its broadcasts on FM at 95.8 MHz VHF stereo (where it remains to this day) and on the medium wave at 539 meters (557 kHz). The IBA however had not been able to obtain planning permission in time to erect the masts for the medium wave transmitters.

DJs to be heard in the early days of the station included Kenny Everett, Dave Cash, Dave Symonds, Tommy Vance, Roger Scott and Nicky Horne, but the station did not just play music

Posted October 10th, 2015 in Uncategorized.

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