Tom Webb's World of Radio.

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DISCLAIMER This page contains personal opinions and is not intended to be malicious or damaging to any individual or organisation.

A warm welcome to this the first of many articles I shall be doing here on concept's Internet pages. Over the next few week's I shall be talking about thing's to do with both legal and free radio , taking an in depth look at some of the character's that have emerged in pirate radio over the last fifteen year's, profiling many of the people I have met on the Merseyside scene both good and bad. Be prepared for some deep analysis, wart's and all together with some of my own opinion's about some of these people who are legend's in their own lunchtime so to speak. But first let's look at the story behind an RSL ,a restricted service licence station I was involved with in 1995.

The WCR Story At last, the story of our involvement with WCR and some honest opinions about the station.

Walking The Plank Those alleged hypocrits who go on RSL's.

What The Future Holds The future of free radio.

Bert And Merseywaves The inside Story.

The WCR Story

In the January of 95, I was approached to go on a RSL station called Wirral Community Radio together with my colleague Jim Lowe. We had only ever worked on free radio station's in the past and were a bit hesitant about getting involved as this might be perceived by some as a betrayal of our belief's. We were later to be proved right on this.

The station was being set up by a school teacher and her friend , who had the idea for the station for a while about providing a station for the Wirral but on the other hand had no idea about any basic presentation skill's or any background in radio.This became obvious after our first meeting and we went on to meet the other people we going to work with on the station at a recording studio on the Wirral which was later going to be used as the studio facility. Over the next month's that followed we continued to meet up before the station actually went on air to rehearse. The quality some of the presenter's was poor even after coaching and more people were approached to go on the station as the time came nearer to go on the air.

Down the tubes

Some were given slot's on the basis of having put money into the station and having an alleged background in radio. It later turned out this particular person had done communication's in the army. Was he going to do his show in Morse code, I wonder would this of been better having heard his abysmal effort's when WCR actually went on air. Then day finally came when the station went on the air which was a Saturday as I recall. there was no mention in the local press about the birth of this new station on the Wirral and very little response on the phone lines and through the mailing address as we came to find out over the next few week's. This was due to a lack of publicity ,how was anybody expected to tune in to a station nobody new even existed.

What a waste of a good signal as it was receivable throughout Merseyside and well into Wales as well. The station's licence holder failed to let any of the local newspaper's know that the station was going to be launched thus this did not help to attract sufficient amount of advertising revenue which was required to keep the station afloat which in the later stages of the station led to the presenter's putting their hand's in their pocket's and forking out £25 each! This certainly would not happen on a ILR commercial station.

The Presenters

As the week's went by the station sort of like divided off into four different group's. These were the pirate presenter's, who seemed to be the most experienced and knew what they were doing. Then there was Aerial Trust people who were supposed to have been on a course run by this organisation to teach them some broadcasting skill's though in my view one half of them were not competent enough to present programmes and to operate studio equipment.

Following them we had people who were on a placement scheme with the local ILR station City FM who basically when they were at city used to answer the phones and help out generally never being allowed on the actual airwaves themselves. Their bosses voiced concern about them mixing with pirate radio type people thinking we would be some sort of bad influence on them. In fact I think they learnt a few thing's off us. Finally there were the people off Arrowesound hospital radio, you know one of them down the tubes station's nobody listens to unless they are ill.

Whilst the sport's programme which was presented by them was very professional they did tend to look down on everybody else and very much did there own thing.

Walking the plank

Those alleged hypocrits who go on RSL's

Inevitably word got out into the free radio community that myself and Jim Lowe were working on a legal radio station. This did not go down to well with certain people on the pirate radio scene and thus a lot of slagging off took place on the airwaves of a station called CFM mainly by Allan C and Dave Moore. We were called traitors to pirate radio by one of these individual's just for the fact that we took part in a legal station.

Whilst I don't wish to ponder about what was said in the past it later turned out that the most outspoken of these two presenter's fell out with the station and was threatening to give away both their studio and transmitter location as heard on their airwaves via the live phone in. This being the case it begs me to ask the question of who would be the real traitor to pirate radio?

On reflection I would never ever want to take part in a legal station again mainly because these station's are a waste of time and in WCR'S case effort. We have had more response from Concept Radio for the short time that it is on and attract a large number of free radio listener's who would not be bothered to listen to an RSL. Also the swaggering way in which the official's from the DTI came down to the station to check the link transmitter was enough to put anybody off. Their attitude was very off hand and unnecessarily heavy had to point out, sarcastically that this was not a pirate radio station, which they didn't like.

The frustrating part was the station could of been reasonably successful had a decent advertising finance package been put together, along with properly organised publicity and some decent presenter's. I just hope I can forget my involvement with this station as the whole thing is a bit of an embarrassment now looking back. Let's pray that this station never manages to get on again and stays dead and buried never to be resurrected again.

See Also : Wirral Community Radio

What the future hold's

Well it look's as if Yet another bank holiday weekend has gone by without Concept Radio being on again. Why, you might ask? The answer to that question is the fact that yet another eight year license station has popped up rather suddenly at the top end of the band , only point two MHz away from our frequency of 106.7mhz.

The radio authority seems to be handing out rather a lot of long term licences just lately, to those with load's of money. I would not mind if they were anything different to the current batch of ILR station's that are on at the moment. It's just the same old blurb of news, playlisted music, advert's and weather mixed together with the same old batch of sound-alike dee-jay's who seem to be clones of one another.

I ask the question where does the future of free radio lie when we have all this clutter at the top end of the band ,because eventually as I see it their is going to be nowhere else left to go. Perhaps we should all go back to the medium wave, although the complexities of broadcasting in this format are considerable and when you take into consideration the loss of sound quality and the interference problem's is it relay worth it? I look upon Concept as pioneering the way forward in the late 1980's as being one of the first station's to broadcast on fm on a regular basis .People laughed at the time as in those day's the emphasis was on medium wave with station's such as radio merseywaves and Srtoreton community radio being on at the time. Even Radio one was not on fm at that time.

The Alternatives

Let's look at another option.

What about short wave, though even this has it's difficulties in regard to interference and modulation. Reception is also dependant on the weather and solar flares not to mention it is not receivable in the local area as short waves behave considerably different than those of VHF.

Long wave, well that's definite out because the length of the aerial would be enormous plus one would need a considerable size transmitter to achieve sufficient output of wattage. All these option's are all form's of what I would call antique modulation and would certainly be in contradiction of all of what Concept Radio stand's for in regard to the technical quality that we like to maintain. I would not like to see the station having to close after all this time let's hope that there will always be room for us and all free radio station's on the fm waveband. In conclusion, it may suit some to see Concept end up as internet pages accessible to only the chosen few but this particular media fall's far short of actually having a station on the air and in my mind does not truly reflect the real identity of the station.

Bert and Merseywaves

It was during the early nineteen eighties that I first started to pay attention to the pirate station's that where on at the time. Although I used to listen to MAR which was a famous medium wave station , I did not encounter the famous tones of Mr Bert William's until about 1985 when I used to listen to a station called Radio Merseywaves. His show used to go out on a Sunday afternoon at three O'clock after the station theme tune which was played on the hour. It's format consisted of music from the sixties together with Bert's infamous style of presentation where he would go on about the various technicalities of the transmitter ,UFO's, not forgetting the DTI and how unfair they where interspersed with the famous slight cough which he always seemed to have every week. As well as this he had the annoying habit of messing around with the transmitter whilst on air leaving big gaps in his show of either continuous music or silence.

His style of presentation was unique if not sometimes rather boring however he did have a bit of a cult following. It led to him being one of the most impersonated dee jays in pirate radio as his deep voice and style was often mimicked on the airwaves of other stations including Concept I might add.

I remember the first time that I met him it was when I was working on radio Merseywaves and I had done the previous slot to him when he came in the studio to do his show. He was wearing a leather jacket, had long hair and carrying a case full of record's. He did not say a lot and came over as being a rather quite sort of person

The Rot Sets In

After a few weeks on the station I suggested to the station manager who was Paul Henderson at the time that we do a link up with Central Radio International which was a medium wave station on 1404 Khz. at the time. He provisionally said yes ,then at the last minute said that Bert had said no. I was very disappointed at the time but was not surprised as we had noticed some jealousy during the time we where on the station. In fact as I remember we had both had our hours reduced to one each whereas some of the other presenters were given three.

Ever had the feeling someone was trying to get rid of you? We did and they later came up with several excuses to dismiss us including tampering with studio leads and saying that I said a certain other pirate radio station had no bottle to come on the air. We where summoned before Bert and on the basis that we where troublemakers where dismissed on the word of the station manager. After leaving the station we later concentrated on our own endeavour's including the formation of concept radio and later went on to join central radio where we were welcomed with open arms, even being congratulated at one time by Bert on the quality of the modulation which was a complement coming from the man who achieved the best ever medium wave sound quality in fact even better than some of the legal stations. Over the years that followed we later got to know him better and all past animosity was forgotten. Unfortunetly the radio authority caught up with him and he eventually ended up in court with a fine.

This lead to him keeping a low profile in free radio in recent years on the medium wave but he has been heard recently although not vocally on fm at the top end of the band playing his unmistakable brand of sixties tunes. It is a shame that people like him who have kept the free radio scene alive on the medium wave have been forced to give up their endeavours on the airwaves due to the present draconian laws we have in place within the wireless and telegraphy act. This virtually puts us all on the same status as criminals and drug dealers which in my view is not at all fair not to mention very discouraging.

If you have any comments, please

© Tom Webb 1998


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