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Almost There !

During late 1961 and early 1962 in Britain - the largest potential market in Europe for commercial radio -there were a number of people who were devising projects to launch offshore radio stations.

At that time in Britain the BBC was still operating a policy of broadcasting live music by its own orchestras and dance bands rather than recorded material by well known artists. This resulted in very little opportunity for listeners to hear any of the hundreds of singles released by record companies each week. The only other source of broadcast music, for listeners and record companies, was Radio Luxembourg. This station had itself undergone a transition in the mid 1950s when its evening broadcasts of light entertainment programmes had been threatened by the launch of commercial television in Britain.  

At that time Radio Luxembourg's output was based on sponsored shows, with programme content being dictated by the sponsor, for example a typical evening schedule would contain a number of 15 or 30 minute programmes such as "The Cliff Richard Show" (music), "The Sporting Challenge" (in which listener's questions about sporting achievements and records were put to Memory Man Leslie Welch), "Italy Sings" (Italian music), "Record Crop" (music), "Bringing Christ to the Nations" (religious broadcast) and "Spin With the Stars" (music).

In 1959 the station changed its output to target the newly identified 'teenage market' and dispensed with these light entertainment programmes, replacing them with pop music shows. One serious side effect of this change in policy was that sponsors became more difficult to find and in any event many of the larger advertisers had deserted to commercial television, taking with them programmes such as "Opportunity Knocks" and "Take Your Pick".

This void in sponsors was filled by Radio Luxembourg negotiating package deals with various record companies to buy large amounts of airtime on the station. The result was over 50 hours a week of chart music being broadcast to Britain in programme segments sponsored and produced by the major record companies. However, Radio Luxembourg's programmes could only be received during the evenings when the station faced severe competition from commercial television.

The emergence of a strong British music industry in the early 1960's forced the pace for the more widespread provision of pop music programmes on radio. The BBC did very little, if anything, to respond to this growth, relying on its outdated agreement with the Musicians Union which restricted the amount of 'needle time' (time allocated to playing records during broadcasts) to 24 hours a week, spread over its three national networks. Radio Luxembourg tried to respond, but had its own problems - its agreements with record companies effectively tied up most of its airtime, it was geographically isolated from the source of the new music revolution, still having no direct landline facilities between its London studios and the transmitters in Europe, and it only broadcast during the evenings.

Into this scenario came a number of businessmen who saw a potential market for an all day pop music station and who had witnessed the success of similar projects in Scandinavia and Holland. The time seemed ripe to launch an offshore radio station to serve Britain.

First amongst these was John Thompson, who together with business associate Robert Collier formed a company - The Voice of Slough Ltd and planned to launch Radio LN, (or Radio Ellen after the name of the ship they were said to have purchased) although the station had a number of other proposed call-signs including  Radio ELB and GBLN (Great Britain, Ellen or Great Britain, London).

Then came Arnold Swanson (who had been technical adviser to the Voice of Slough project) with even more elaborate plans to launch a station - GBOK (Great Britain OK) from a former lightship, the Lady Dixon.

Neither of these plans came to fruition, but Australian entrepreneur, Allan Crawford, was also busy developing his Project Atlanta, with plans to launch a commercial offshore radio station - and this time it was to prove successful. However, Radio Atlanta took rather longer than anticipated to make it on the air and the honour of being Britain’s first offshore commercial radio station fell to a late-comer rival group, Ronan O’Rahilly’s  Radio Caroline.

Find out more about The Voice of Slough and GBOK in the Planned & Short-lived Stations Section of the Britain Gallery  on Floor 1

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