Happy Birthday LBC! 50 Years of Leading Britain's Conversation

8 October 2023, 00:00

LBC is a place where the nations top politicians and people at the heart of the news answer your questions
LBC is a place where the nation's top politicians and people at the heart of the news answer your questions. Picture: LBC
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Commercial radio’s 50-year history began as LBC, then called the London Broadcasting Company, put out its first broadcast at 6am on 8 October 1973.

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of LBC, one of the first two commercial radio stations in the UK. Along with Capital, which launched just two weeks later, LBC pioneered the concept of independent commercial radio in a country that had only known radio from the BBC up until that point.

The launch of LBC was made possible by the Sound Broadcasting Act of 1972, which established the legal framework for commercial radio for the first time in the UK. 

David Jessel left the BBC to join LBC, presenting its morning programme at the launch of the UK’s first commercial radio station in 1973
David Jessel left the BBC to join LBC, presenting its morning programme at the launch of the UK’s first commercial radio station in 1973. Picture: Getty
The LBC Studios looked very different when the Global Radio headquarters in Leicester Square opened
The LBC Studios looked very different when the Global Radio headquarters in Leicester Square opened. Picture: Alamy
LBC Reporter interviews Boris Johnson as mayor at a  press eventoutside City Hall London before becoming conservative Prime Minister
LBC Reporter interviews Boris Johnson as mayor at a press event outside City Hall London before becoming conservative Prime Minister. Picture: Alamy

Now owned by Global, LBC is Britain’s biggest commercial news talk brand with more than three million listeners each week. Its mix of opinionated presenters, callers and programming that holds people in power to account, regularly sets the national news agenda.

LBC’s origins can be traced back to 1965, when newspaper publisher Sir Geoffrey Cox applied for a license to run a commercial radio station in London. 

Nick Ferrari has long been at the heart of holding power to account on the station
Nick Ferrari has long been at the heart of holding power to account on the station. Picture: Alamy
Tory leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak is interviewed by Nick Ferrari of LBC during the final Conservative leadership election hustings in London, United Kingdom on August 31, 2022.
Tory leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak is interviewed by Nick Ferrari of LBC during the final Conservative leadership election hustings in London, United Kingdom on August 31, 2022. Picture: Getty

Though his initial application was rejected, Cox did not give up on his dream of independent radio. In 1970, he helped establish the London Broadcasting Company with the goal of finally launching an ad-funded radio station independent of the BBC. The company's efforts paid off in 1973 when LBC finally took to the airwaves on October 8, 1973. David Jessel was the first host of the breakfast show at 6am that day. 

LBC had attracted many high profile broadcasters over the years
LBC had attracted many high profile broadcasters over the years. Picture: Alamy
LBC Reporters often interview high profile politicians
LBC Reporters often interview high profile politicians. Picture: Alamy

Over the years, LBC featured many presenters who became well-known names in British media, including Adrian Love, Jon Snow, Peter Allen, Rosie Boycott and Bel Mooney. 

Memorable programmes included Bob Holness and Douglas Cameron’s breakfast show "AM" which ran for ten years from 1975 while LBC’s late night phone-in show "Nightline" was fronted by a host of well-known names including Robin Houston, Monty Modlyn, Jeremy Beadle and Tommy Boyd. 

LBC presenter, Iain Dale (far right) with SNP leadership candidates Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes (right), during a SNP leadership hustings hosted by LBC at their studios in Glasgow.
LBC presenter, Iain Dale (far right) with SNP leadership candidates Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes (right), during a SNP leadership hustings hosted by LBC at their studios in Glasgow. Picture: Alamy
LBC isn't just on the radio, it's on High Streets too with the ability to send stories to a large digital audience
LBC isn't just on the radio, it's on High Streets too with the ability to send stories to a large digital audience. Picture: Getty

Before rolling TV news, LBC built a reputation for breaking major stories. In 1974, a young Jon Snow reported from the Balcombe Street siege in Marylebone where four IRA gunmen seized two hostages for six days and in 1980, Malcolm Brabant reported live from the scene as the SAS stormed the Iranian Embassy in South Kensington.

In the years that followed, LBC was at the centre of numerous major news stories from the UK and around the world. From the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the unprecedented tragedy of 9/11 just over a decade later, LBC provided a rich mix of live reporting and phone-ins with callers analysing these pivotal moments. 

A technician watches from a booth as journalists Janet Street-Porter and Paul Callan present their mid-morning show, 'Two In The Morning', on the first day of broadcasting by the London Broadcasting Company (now LBC Radio), London, 8th October 1973.
A technician watches from a booth as journalists Janet Street-Porter and Paul Callan present their mid-morning show, 'Two In The Morning', on the first day of broadcasting by the London Broadcasting Company (now LBC Radio), London, 8th October 1973. Picture: Getty

Today, LBC is best-known for its live debate and political programmes, presented by the biggest names in broadcasting. With a cast list that includes stellar broadcasters such as Nick Ferrari, James O’Brien, Shelagh Fogarty, Tom Swarbrick, Andrew Marr and Iain Dale, it continues to put audiences at the heart of everything it does.

When more people than ever before are listening to commercial radio, LBC remains a pioneer, proudly leading the way, with more than 3.1 million hugely loyal listeners helping to cement its place in broadcasting history.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer takes part in Call Keir, his regular phone-in on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast show, at the Global Studios, London, where he takes calls from LBC listeners across the UK.
LBC is a place where the nations top politicians and people at the heart of the news answer your questions. Picture: Alamy

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