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Independent Radio News / Sky News Radio
News service IRN has been supplied to commercial radio stations in the UK since 1973. Here is some basic information on the IRN service, which is now operated by Sky News
What is IRN?
Independent Radio News launched in 1973, serving the UK's commercial radio stations, starting with London's LBC. The service was run by LBC, switching to the ITV new service ITN in the 1990s.
The IRN service is currently operated by satellite broadcaster Sky, from studios at Sky's Head Office near Brentford in West London, and is used by over 300 UK radio stations.
IRN operates a subscription service, where stations become members and can then take advantage of the IRN reports, audio and text service. The service is also funded by "Newslink" commercials, which are transmitted alongside news reports during peak listening hours. The service is available on a subscription basis to hospital radio stations.
The IRN service
In the 1980s and 1990s, the IRN service consisted of an audio feed and a teleprinter service - The audio feed used a BT landline and news bulletins, news cuts, sports news and interviews were delivered to member stations.
Today, audio cuts and text are delivered to radio station newsrooms over the Internet, and can be accessed using the IRN Net Newsroom
IRN Audio Feed
In the 70s and 80s, a single audio feed was delivered to radio stations via BT landlines. The IRN feed switched to satellite in the 1990s. The IRN Audio Feed carried the following:
- A top-of-the-hour news bulletin containing national news
- Various interviews and news clips
- Sports, typically pre-match audio and goal-flashes
- Football result service at 1655 on a Saturday
- The Network Chart on a Sunday afternoon
- National commercials (commonly from national newspapers sent at the last minute)
The IRN feed is now distributed via the Astra satellite, and can be picked up by member stations using a standard satellite dish and decoder pointing at the same satellites as those used for the Sky Digital TV service.
Some comments from one of our team, Pete, about IRN:
I worked for a local commercial radio station from 1985 to 1999, and IRN was an integral part of the station's operation. One of my first jobs was as a T.O (Technical Operator), taking in the news, clock-start, into pre-recorded programmes. I also looked after the Network Chart on a Sunday, down the wire from Capital Radio's studios via the IRN landline circuit (in glorious mono).
I spent several years working with the Saturday afternoon sports team, carting up football results down the wire from IRN, or taking the 5-to-5 football results feed on a Saturday.
I also worked closely with Traffic and Commercial Production, taking national commercials via the IRN landline feed, on 10 inch reels of tape, before the service shifted to the SMS satellite system in the 1990s. Somewhere, I have a copy of the Naffin Landlines song, that summed up experiences of staying late waiting for the "Attention Networks - Tomorrow's Sun Commercial, duration 20 seconds, coming you in 3... 2... 1..."
Here's a picture of the IRN station in the Essex Radio newsroom, taken in the early 1990s:
Note the large reel-to-reel that auto-started when IRN send audio, the cart machine for capturing news clips and goal flashes, and on the right, the old trusty dot-matrix printer with rip-and-read stories churning away.
Andrew Mansterstam. My other strong memory, is of the IRN Washington correspondent, who had the habit of over-emphasising "IRN". His sign-off was sent up in style in an ILR spoof tape that did the rounds in the 1990s. Here's an audio clip: Andrew Mansterstam, IRN, Washington (Short MP3 audio clip)
If anyone is interested, please get in touch and we'll try to dig out a few audio clips of IRN from the 80s and 90s, which we have stashed away in our audio archives!