LBC (originally the London Broadcasting Company) is a London-based national talk and phone-in radio station. It was the UK's first licensed commercial radio station, beginning broadcasting on Monday 8 October 1973, a week ahead of Capital Radio. The launch of LBC also saw the beginning of IRN's broadcasting, as LBC provided the service to independent local radio stations nationwide.
|Slogan||2007-2014: "London's Biggest Conversation"
Since 2014: "Leading Britain's Conversation"
|Frequency||RDS: __LBC___, FM 97.3 MHz
– 12C (London)
– 11D (Nationwide)
Virgin Media: 919
TalkTalk TV: 627
|First air date||8 October 1973
11 February 2014
|Sister stations||Capital FM
David Jessel was LBC's original breakfast presenter; he opened the station just before 6 am on Monday 8 October 1973. The original station spawned a number of stars who went on to become household names in the British media. They include Jon Snow, Julian Manyon, Peter Allen, Rosie Boycott, and Bel Mooney. LBC's programme between 10 pm and 1 am was called Nightline and at various times was hosted by Mike Dickin, Monty Modlyn, Jeremy Beadle, Tommy Boyd and Bryn Jones. There was also a character called Mr Nasty, who argued over the telephone with children. Beadle and Forrest went on to star in the Granada Television series Fun Factory.
Originally owned by a consortium led by the Canadian Selkirk Communications with a 46% stake, LBC was sold in 1987, beginning a turbulent commercial history. The new owners were media company Darling Downs, later renamed Crown Communications, owned by Australian entrepreneur David Haynes. Crown sold the station's original base in Gough Square near Fleet Street in the City of London and relocated to Hammersmith; and in 1989 split the station into two separate services, the news and comment station LBC Crown FM, and the phone-in London Talkback Radio on AM. The transition was not initially well received, and substantially increased costs, pushing the company into the red. In 1993 the company was sold to Shirley Porter's Chelverton Investments, after Crown got into financial difficulty.
The company almost disappeared later in 1993, when the Radio Authority failed to renew the company's two licences, LBC Newstalk and London Talkback Radio, awarding the frequencies instead to London News Radio, a consortium led by former LBC staff and backed by Guinness Mahon. The prospective loss of the franchise brought Chelverton to the brink of collapse, and London News Radio (soon itself taken over by Reuters) bought LBC to keep it on air until the official handover date of October 1994.
London News Radio operated the station from LBC's former studios in Hammersmith as London News 97.3, a rolling news and travel information service on the FM band, and the phone-in-driven service London News Talk 1152 on the MW band. These names were simplified slightly in mid-1995 to News 97.3 and News Talk 1152 respectively, but between October 1994 and July 1996 the LBC name was not used on-air at all.
Reuters then brought in additional shareholders, and between 1996 and 2002 LBC was part of London News Radio Limited, a company owned jointly by ITN, Daily Mail and General Trust, Reuters, and the GWR Group. This new consortium revived the LBC name on 1152AM on 1 July 1996. At the end of 1996 the FM service was relaunched as News Direct 97.3FM. Production for the station was moved to the basement of ITN's new multimedia building in Gray's Inn Road.
In 2002, the company was bought for £23.5m by the media company Chrysalis, who trumpeted their purchase with the promise that they would lift the listenership to at least one million from around 700,000 (LBC had enjoyed an audience of more than two million in the early 1980s). Production was moved to Chrysalis's base in North Kensington, and the formatting of the two frequencies was swapped, the talk format moving to FM and the news format to AM.
In 2005, the station's Managing Director Mark Flanagan left Chrysalis to set up a political consultancy company and was replaced by David Lloyd. Some claimed he held no previous experience in the talk and chat radio genre, which overlooked the almost two years he spent with the Century FM brand in its Border TV ownership days where the station was a 50/50 music/talk service. He also introduced a podcasting service called LBC Plus, and a number of premium-rate promotional opportunities to replace falling advertising revenues experienced by the radio sector.
In September 2006, the LBC 97.3 station became available in some other parts of the country on the digital DAB platform, after Chrysalis bought out its partners and closed the Digital News Network rolling news station, which had previously been carried on the MXR multiplex. Each multiplex region – the North West, West Midlands, Yorkshire, North East, South Wales, and the West – broadcast the London LBC transmission, augmented with occasional bulletins of regional news and travel information.
In February 2007, Chrysalis confirmed media speculation that it was reviewing the entire radio operation at its investors' request. Further media speculation from The Guardian suggested that the group had little option, due to shareholder pressure, to sell its radio arm, including LBC, raising up to £200 million for new acquisitions, while The Daily Telegraph suggested that it could be the subject of a management buyout. Subsequently it was announced on 25 June 2007 that LBC along with its sister stations The Arrow, Heart, and Galaxy network were to be sold for £170 million to Global Radio by the Chrysalis Group, whose Chrysalis Radio operation closed down. In December 2008 the station moved to the Capital London studios in Leicester Square.
In April 2007, a new marketing slogan for (what was then called) LBC 97.3 was introduced: "London's Biggest Conversation", a play on the station's initials.
Towards the end of October 2012, the station ceased DAB broadcasts to some parts of the country.
On 30 January 2014, LBC announced its intention to return to the DAB platform and began broadcasting nationally at 7 am on 11 February 2014 under a new slogan, "Leading Britain's Conversation". LBC took up the slot previously occupied by Jazz FM (and briefly Birdsong), and dropped the "97.3" from the station name to reinforce the notion that it now had national coverage.
LBC claim to be the first radio station in the world to provide full-length podcasts for all its major shows, plus podcast-only shows and other things such as backstage interviews and mp3s sent to the show, under the name LBC Plus. Most podcasts require a small subscription fee, but some shows, including Best Of programmes, podcast only shows and 'bitesize' versions of programmes, are free.
On 13 January 2004, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented an hour-long phone-in show on the station, taking pre-booked calls from LBC 97.3 listeners. His appearance was part of the 'Big Conversation' initiative to promote government as being more accessible and in touch with the people. During the 10–11 am show, a caller explained that he'd been denied access to his children for five years and asked what Blair was planning to do about other fathers in a similar situation. The Prime Minister assured the caller he would look into his case personally. It later transpired that the caller was in fact Fathers 4 Justice member Ron Davis, who in May of that year was arrested for entering Parliament and throwing a condom containing purple powder over Blair and nearby Cabinet members. Davis claimed the attack was in response to the Prime Minister's failure to contact him or look into the matters discussed on LBC 97.3.
During his tenure as London Mayor, Ken Livingstone was a regular guest on LBC 97.3, appearing usually once per month on the Nick Ferrari breakfast show. During the show he took calls from LBC listeners and discussed points put to him by Ferrari. It became something of a running joke that the Mayor usually arrived late, blaming it on the public transport. Livingstone's phone in sessions alternated between LBC and BBC London 94.9 and were one of the rare opportunities that Londoners had of talking directly to the then-London Mayor. After losing the 2008 Mayoral Election Livingstone began his own Saturday Morning programme on LBC, on 30 August 2008. He stood down in March 2012 to concentrate on running for London Mayor again, and was replaced by the former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Until the spring of 2016, he co-hosted a slot on Saturday mornings with David Mellor.
The radio station received dozens of complaints after a broadcast on 10 September 2008 proclaimed that the end of the world was nigh, due to the initial tests of the Large Hadron Collider taking place that day. The station held a phone-in where people would say 'goodbye' to Earth. Due to this broadcast being made during the school run, most complaints were from parents complaining that their children were terrified by the broadcast.
The radio station became involved in the MMR vaccine controversy after a broadcast by Jeni Barnett on 7 January 2009 in which she debated the putative dangers of MMR vaccine with callers. It became the subject of media controversy, first because her views were criticised as irreponsible by medical journalist Dr Ben Goldacre, and then because LBC and Global Radio threatened legal action against Goldacre for copyright infringement after he refused to remove the audio of the show from his blog, which resulted in its being made available at Wikileaks and elsewhere and the preparation of transcripts of the broadcast. David Aaronovitch in The Times argued for "a class action against LBC for permitting a presenter to inflict her preposterous prejudices on her listeners, to the detriment of someone else's kids." Norman Lamb MP tabled an Early Day Motion criticising Barnett and LBC for the likely effect of the broadcast on public health.
|Presenters||First on-air appearances||Current on-air times|
|Clive Bull||2 May 2007||Monday–Thursday 8 pm – 10 pm
Sunday 6 pm – 9 pm
|Nick Abbot||1 January 2009||Friday & Saturday 10 pm – 1 am|
|Steve Allen||Weekdays 4 am – 7 am
Saturday 6 am – 7 am (In Conversation)
Sunday 5 am – 7 am
|Nick Ferrari||2 January 2009||Weekdays 7 am – 10 am|
|Andrew Pierce||4 January 2009||Friday 7 pm – 10 pm|
|James O'Brien||5 January 2009||Weekdays 10 am – 1 pm|
|Ian Payne||21 August 2010||Saturday 3 pm – 6 pm|
|Iain Dale||20 September 2010||Weekdays 4 pm – 7 pm|
|Ian Collins||6 April 2012||Sunday–Thursday 10 pm – 1 am|
|Andrew Castle||31 August 2013||Weekends 7 am – 10 am|
|Beverley Turner||23 December 2014||Saturday 6 pm – 8 pm|
|Shelagh Fogarty||5 January 2015||Weekdays 1 pm – 4 pm|
|Darren Adam||31 March 2015||Weekdays 1 am – 4 am|
|Lucy Beresford||5 September 2015||Saturday 8 pm – 10 pm (Sex & Relationships Show)|
|Alex Salmond||13 January 2016||Sunday 3 pm – 6 pm|
|Maajid Nawaz||21 August 2016||Weekends 12 pm – 3 pm|
|Matt Frei||24 September 2016||Saturday 10 am – 12 pm|
|Matthew Stadlen||1 October 2016||Weekends 1 am – 5 am|
|Nigel Farage||9 January 2017||Monday–Thursday 7 pm – 8 pm
Sunday 10 am – 12 pm
LBC has held call-in shows for politicians Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson. In 2016, it was announced that Alex Salmond would be taking part in a weekly call-in show. This show ran from 13 January to 30 March that year. Salmond was then given a three-hour Sunday afternoon show, starting in 17 September 2017, after he lost his seat in the UK general election 2017.
|2017||Diversity in Media Awards||Radio Programme / Station of the Year||LBC Radio||Nominated|