Commercial Radio 50th birthday blue plaque unveiled in London

A blue plaque commemorating the birthplace of commercial radio in the UK, 50 years ago, has been unveiled in a ceremony at Gough Square, EC4.

The plaque hangs on a building that now stands on the site of Communications House, the home of LBC and IRN from 1973 to 1990.

The event, which took place on Friday, was organised by the LBC@50 reunion committe.

Both LBC and IRN helped the careers of many names including Jon Snow, Gyles Brandreth, Janet Street-Porter, Clive Myrie and Jeff Stelling.

Radio 4’s Today programme presenter Martha Kearney, who started her career as an LBC trainee, was in charge of ceremonies, she said: “Out of creative anarchy, a revolutionary radio station was born which changed the face of British broadcasting forever. Those of us who worked together in Gough Square will never forget those crazy days.”

Martha Kearney, Gyles Brandreth, Dickie Arbiter, Clive Myrie, Ben Brown, Peter Allen, Mark Easton and Douglas Cameron.
Martha Kearney interviews Mark Easton, Gyles Brandreth looks on.
Mark Easton, Douglas Cameron, Ben Brown, Martha Kearney, Dickie Arbiter, Hugh Pym, Clive Myrie, and launch engineer Heather Branwell.

From the basement of Communications House in 1973, a crowd of inexperienced journalists took on BBC radio. There was very little money, and the first few months were total mayhem. Even some of the staff begged managers to delay the launch.

A special video, produced by LBC@50 to mark the anniversary, was enjoyed by 250 veterans who a attended the reunion party. The video hears from former employees:

“All I can remember about the first day was chaos. The studios weren’t even finished,” says Janet Street-Porter.

Gyles Brandreth added: “I have vivid memories of day one. My job was to set puzzles around the adverts just to keep people listening, as the whole idea of commercial breaks was so novel.”

Former head of BBC Radio Dame Jenny Abramsky remembers tuning in: “The BBC’s first reaction was, oh, this isn’t going to be a problem!”

From its shaky beginnings, things began to change for LBC and IRN. Radio critic Gillian Reynolds says the arrival of commercial radio was, “a huge change and it scared the living daylights out of a lot of people.”

LBC pioneered the live news report from the scene of a breaking story – young reporter Jon Snow getting on his bike to file, live from a terrorist siege on a walkie-talkie.

“There was a sense of absolute immediacy about it, and I realised this was what radio was all about,” he says.

Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling says his career was almost over before it began: “I was nearly sacked after a month but hung on for what turned out to be a great learning curve.”

Many presenters and staff who worked for LBC and IRN were at today’s unveiling, which was carried out by Clive Myrie, Ben Brown, Douglas Cameron, Gyles Brandreth, Martha Kearney, and Peter Deeley.