Independent Radio in Herts, Beds and Bucks.
This is the story of Chiltern Radio, a highly successful independent radio station which was part of the Independent Broadcasting Authority’s expansion programme of commercial radio stations across the country in the 1980s. The franchise was to be a ‘twin station’ centred on Luton and Bedford and covering significant parts of Herts, Beds and Bucks. This coverage area included the Luton-Dunstable conurbation containing the largest population centre in East Anglia. This sophisticated population living on the edge of Greater London chooses to enjoy the countryside of the heart of England rather than that of the Metropolis. It was the countryside surrounding the Chiltern Hills that inspired the name Chiltern Radio.
The programmers at Chiltern Radio captured the spirit of a sophisticated population in harmony with its surrounding countryside and incorporated it into the sound of the station. The music of the radio station was as lively and fashionable as the proximity to London would ever demand yet its presentation shouted the beauty and inspiration of the surrounding countryside. Chiltern’s attractive location ensured that professional broadcasting talent was always in good supply.
The programme staff were altogether above the average in talent and innovation. This was just as well as Chiltern saw itself as a ‘full service’ radio station and designed a programme schedule which was modern, fun, lively and exciting yet incorporated public service specialist programmes such as ‘Kid’s Stuff’ a children’s educational programme which achieved its aim through having fun; For the well-established Italian Population, the Italian language programme ‘L’Ora Italiano’; a religious magazine programme on Sunday mornings; for general interest, ‘In Town and Village’ where the production team visited a community in Herts, Beds and Bucks each week with the microphone at the ‘ready’; and many shorter programme features such as fishing, sport and farming. Chiltern produced specialist music programmes such as Classical, Jazz, and Country music.
Unlike other areas in the UK, the first local radio service for Herts Beds and Bucks came from the independent or commercial sector. In most other areas in the country the BBC had always managed to be first. This was an advantage for Chiltern Radio and the programme team were determined to maintain its primacy when BBC Radio Bedfordshire eventually came to Herts, Beds and Bucks several years later.