LBC signs off after 21 years

London's first talk radio station, LBC, is no more. From today Londoners will have their first 24-hour radio news service with the launch of London Radio.

The station will offer two services - 24-hour news on London News (97.3FM) and London News Talk on 1152AM.

LBC, the first commercial station in London and which pioneered the radio phone-in 21 years ago, had been operating a news and talk show format. In addition to the FM service, it offered Talkback, giving people the chance to discuss personal problems at length, on 1152AM. This will be replaced with London News Talk, which will follow the format of the LBC programme.

LBC lost its licences for the FM and AM frequencies last autumn, and went into receivership in March. There were fears it would go off the air completely, but a pounds 1m rescue bid from London Radio ensured continuity up until today's launch.

But the takeover was not without controversy. In May, Reuters Holdings, the news and information group, announced it was taking over London Radio.

Reuters had been part of an unsuccessful bid for two radio franchises led by another radio company.

Chelverton Investments, which owned LBC until it went into receivership, claimed that since the franchise was awarded, London Radio had changed beyond recognition as a result of the change in financial control. But the Radio Authority, which grants licences, took no further action.

A spokeswoman said the authority felt London Radio could provide a better service than LBC. The licence comes up for renewal every eight years.

The 24-hour news service on 97.3FM will offer news, sport, business news, and

travel information. There will also be three longer items every hour, offering political analysis, comment, theatre and television reviews. 'Basically, it is all the elements of a newspaper,' said spokesman David Keithley.

Reuters Radio News, a service for independent radio stations, is based in the same Hammersmith building as London News and provides a news service to the station.

The AM frequency will offer a service similar to LBC's FM broadcasts, with many familiar LBC names, including Simon Bates, Robbie Vincent, Douglas Cameron and Brian Hayes. Frank Bough will have the weekend breakfast slot.

The style will be based on the phone-ins that made LBC's name. But Pete Murray and Angela Rippon will go.

Rory McLeod, the new station's managing director, said they were trying to maintain some of the best of LBC while bringing in fresh ideas. 'What we are trying to do is to achieve our goals by evolution rather than revolution.'

The station inherits a total LBC audience of 1.3 million listeners. London News and London News Talk are being launched with a pounds 1m publicity campaign on billboards, buses and taxis.

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