50 years of independent radio – and how Scotland’s stations began – John Murray

This week marks 50 years of independent radio in the UK. In October 1973 Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks opened LBC in London only to be followed by Capital Radio a week later serving the city with music programming.
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Since the pirates became illegal, the BBC had taken up the slack in 1967 with the opening of Radio One and Two so already, it had a head start on any independent stations licenced by what was then known as the Radio Authority, the predecessor of Ofcom.

It would be a further year before Scotland had any independent radio though, as Radio Clyde in Glasgow became only the second station in the UK to open legally in December 1974. The following day BBC Radio Four rebranded their regional radio to call it Radio Scotland.

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January 1975, however, was the first time that listeners in the east could comfortably be served when Radio Forth covered Fife and the Lothians. The late Steve Hamilton was the first voice and January, by Edinburgh band Pilot, was the first record, and became their only number one hit single. In the years that followed they even opened a studio and shop at 222 High Street Kirkcaldy.

John Murray at Radio Tay in 1981 (Pic: John Murray)John Murray at Radio Tay in 1981 (Pic: John Murray)
John Murray at Radio Tay in 1981 (Pic: John Murray)

A Government Green Paper on radio and opportunities became a White Paper in November 1987 and ‘neighborhood stations’ were on offer, with Kirkcaldy-Glenrothes identified as one. Three members of Kirkcaldy’s hospital radio (VRN) formed a group called Eastsound Radio and awarded the licence but failed to find the required funding required to broadcast. Expanding the area to the whole of Fife, the radio authority then invited bids in 1996.

Helped by a robust application which was set up over lunch at the Beveridge Park Hotel, George Mackintosh and I formed a strong board to beat off the other bidders. George had been a Radio Clyde news reporter and had set up Radio Tay with two other VRN presenters Brian Suttie and Danny Burke. He was my boss when I worked there and between us had the radio experience to win what was to become Kingdom FM.

We rented property at Haig House Markinch with a direct line of sight to the main transmitter at Purin Hill Falkland. Opening in October 1998 this last week saw them celebrating 25 years on air, and now based at Elizabeth House in Kirkcaldy.

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