Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of commercial radio in the UK. LBC and Capital Radio were the first two stations on air, and fifty years on both stations are at the top of their game. LBC has undergone various changes in ownership over the years, and is now owned by Global, who took over the company in 2007. At that time LBC was a London only FM station, with an audience of about 500,000 a week. In 2014 LBC went national on DAB and we now have an audience of around 3.5 million. That’s not including our growing audience around the world who now tune in on the LBC website, app or GlobalPlayer.
I first appeared on LBC back in 1999 when the station broadcast from ITN’s building in Grays Inn Road. I regularly appeared on Gyles Brandreth’s Sunday afternoon arts and culture show, or with David Prever or Brian Hayes. I had always wanted to get into radio, and this was my first foot in the door. I continued as a pundit when they moved to Hammersmith and usually appeared on Sandi Toksvig’s lunchtime show alongside Julia Langdon.
In 2009 I got an audition to be a presenter and started doing some cover shows and presented LBC’s 2010 general election night show. I knew it was going well and thought I might be offered a weekend show, but instead they offered me the evening show, five days a week. It was a dream come true, but I already had a full time job, and wasn’t quite clear how I could do two. Anyway, for the next seven years I did just that.
I absolutely loved it. Speech radio and phone-in radio are very special things, and LBC does it uniquely. The callers are just as important as the guests, and sometimes I do without guests at all because I want to gauge what the public think about a breaking story.
In 2012 I started presenting the Sunday morning show as well, but then in March 2013 moved to the Drivetime show, taking over from one of my broadcasting heroes, James Whale. I spent five happy years on Drive, trebling the audience and bagging four prime ministerial interviews as well as presenting various referendum, election night and US election overnight shows. I was in my element.
In September 2018 I returned to the evening show, where I have been ever since.
I worked out recently that I have presented around 3,000 shows and more than 10,000 hours of output. I’ve been on LBC for nearly a third of its life.
It’s been an absolute honour to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Douglas Cameron, Peter Murray, Bob Holness and so many others. I broadcast alongside some of the best broadcasters in the British media today, as well as some outstanding reporters and producers. In 13 years I’ve seen a lot of presenters and producers come and go. Many of the producers on the top Radio 4 news shows started their careers on LBC, many on my show.
This is the best job I have ever had. I’ve always known the time to leave would be when I got bored. But how can you be bored on a station which covers what’s on the news agenda, which changes several times a day? I hope I’ve got a bit of petrol in the tank yet!
Any institution which is still thriving after 50 years must have done something right. Thank you to all the listeners who have become part of the LBC family and hopefully I’ll still be able to tune in from a celestial cloud in another 50 years’ time.