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The history of Radio Bailrigg as told in SCAN
'Radio Times' By Ranvir Singh
It is now 30 years SCAN's first issue, back in 1967, and amongst the many developments that have occured in that time, Radio Bailrigg is one that is continuing to flourish today. Having started off 27 years ago, when the growth of independent radio stations, across the country, was beginning to boom, Lancaster University Students decided that they too could benefit from the experience to be derived from setting up a radio station run by, and for, the students of the University. As SCAN claimed, on 19th October 1970: 'Radio Bailrigg could be the most exciting student project', as it urged members of the University to become active participants.
Well, it obviously worked, as Bailrigg FM 87.7 has a fairly long history to be 'proud of', as Rob Cox, Station Director, recalled. The station was only the second unversity radio set-up to gain a licence to broadcast. It was just beaten by York (Could this be yet another bone of contention between the two warring cities?).
The biggest change to occur at the station, which has always been centralized in Fylde college, was its move to an FM waveband, from its previous MW on 19th January 1996. The reason for this change was that the MW 'loop induction' system being used, was being broken allowing leakage to occur, causing broadcasting to be virtually impossible to certain buildings. The repair costs being too high meant that when the small chance of getting an FM licence came up in 1994, the station were first to put their bid in. One other reason for the MW band being dropped was that because BBC Radio One had given up their MW frequency for sale, 963MW, the university station's then frequency, became 'swamped', leaving it open to interference, making it 'unfriendly' to the listening audience.
Another milestone for Bailrigg Radio was that it was the first student station to be given its FM RSL (Restricted Service Licence), albeit for a temporary 4 weeks. This resulted in the station being picked up not only on campus but also in Lancaster, Heysham, Morecambe, and even as far as Preston and Blackpool. The success of this was repeated in 1995.
The station was doing well and at the end of 1995 was given the opportunity to try out a low-powered RSL, as an experiment for use in hospital radio. It is the first student station to get a full-time FM licence; Oxford Brooks are next in line, but they have opted for a community licence, which means that they will need high audience ratings in order to remain financially viable.
When questioned about the potential scope for listeners, Rob Cox said that radio broadcasting, unlike print journalism, is bound by many legal restrictions - one of which is that the station must only broadcast to campus. He feels, however, that the aims of the station are not, primarily, to gain the largest audience; as he said, 'this would be totally unreasonable considering we are in direct competition with other professional radio stations.' But he did say that 'to teach people about radio is what is important.'
The principle of remaining 'unbiased' at all times, is the kind of discipline that Rob Cox welcomes for his team. An element of controversiality might gain the station attention, as it does in the world of newspapers, but for Bailrigg FM would only cause problems with the Radio Authority - something they are pleased never to have done.
And what function does he feel the station plays in the life of the University? Apart from giving DJ's real experience of the world of radio broadcast: 'the station is privileged to be playing some of the newest music that exists. We get stuff that even Radio One, and other independent stations haven't even heard before.' The station prides itself on allowing specialise DJ's to share the essentials of their own music tastes - which is one of the advantages of keeping the station on a smaller scale, to cater to more localized trends.
Bailrigg FM, although 'not well funded' and 'in need of a full-time member of staff', can only build on what they have; and no-one can deny that they have certainly moved on from 'broadcasting on Medium Wave band (300 metres) for several hours per night' - (SCAN, October 1970) - to currently going on air 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all 31 weeks of the academic year.