Radio in the UK – Handy Information

Our look at radio broadcasting in the UK, information on the radio industry, help on finding a job in radio, broadcasting courses, digital radio services, and a look at some nostalgia.

Radio in the UK started back in the early 1920’s with just one tiny BBC radio station in Chelmsford, Essex. The BBC dominated radio until the 1960’s, when the pirates ruled the airwaves. In the early 1970’s, we saw commercial radio come onto the scenes.

Radio’s moved on in leaps and bounds in the last 30 years, and we now have several hundred radio stations, with a huge variety of formats and audiences.

On our site, you’ll find links and information on today’s British radio industry.

Types of radio station:

The types of station operating in the UK, are:

National RadioServing the whole of the UK, national stations include BBC Radios 1-5, Absolute Radio, Classic FM and talkSPORT.
Regional StationsThere are currently 17 of these in the UK, covering multi-county areas, including BBC Scotland, BBC Radio Wales, Capital and Kiss (East Anglia)
Local RadioThere are 40 BBC local radio stations, and over 250 commercial stations (known as ILR – Independent Local Radio stations). This number includes town-sized stations (once known as Incremental stations).
Community RadioA growing number of “Not for profit” radio stations (Over 100 in 2008), that started following the Government’s Access radio pilot scheme. For more, see Community Media Association.
RSLShort-term restricted service licences (for temporary low-powered radio services). These typically run for no longer than 28 days continuous broadcasting.
DAB Digital RadioPure ONEDigital Audio Broadcasting, is the new type of radio service available in the UK. DAB offers a range of extra channels not available on FM. You’ll need a special DAB radio to receive Digital Radio – there are a range of DAB radios now available, including kitchen radios, hi-fi tuners, in-car radios and battery-powered portable devices. For more on DAB radio, see our DAB page.
Internet RadioThere are several Internet radio stations out there, and a high number of UK stations broadcast on the Internet… the Internet has worldwide coverage. You can also run your own. There’s also the new phenomenon… Podcasting.

For more on Internet radio and online broadcasting, see our Internet Radio Information page.

Satellite RadioStations broadcasting on satellite, including Sky. See Radio Now’s Satellite station page
Hospital RadioOver 230 of these up-and-running in hospitals around the UK. See
Student RadioStations serving a number of colleges and universities. See the Student Radio Organisation
Pirate RadioThe UK radio industry owes an awful lot to the pirate radio pioneers of the 1960’s sitting in rusty ships and forts off the coast of the UK, especially Radio Caroline and Wonderful Radio London – They changed the face of broadcasting. If you’ve not seen it, we recommend “The Boat That Rocked“.

There are still a number of land-based pirate radio stations out there – but don’t expect us to talk about them here.


UK Radio Links


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