Past Life: Bye bye from him

From Shetland Life, August 1985, No.58

(extract from) Media Matters by Ian J. D. Anderson

This is my last Media Matters column. The reason for this is simple. As from August (this is written in July) the Shetland Islands Broadcasting Company Limited will start to operate, although the radio station won’t be on the air before the end of the year.
Since I have a large shareholding in the firm it would be unreasonable for me to comment on other media and on the SIBC and expect to be regarded as objective (if ever I was).

In truth I have probably overcompensated for my involvement by almost never mentioning SIBC, and the prospective stations SEA-FM and SEA-COUNTRY, in these columns. However, since this is my last fling, I can indulge in an explanation or two.

The concept behind the Shetland Islands Broadcasting Company is a belief that everywhere deserves its own local radio (or two or more), owned, operated and controlled entirely by people who live in the community exactly the same way as this magazine, and The Shetland Times, are operated. If we get it wrong in this magazine the readers complain to us (via the editor) not to some HQ in London or Glasgow. A second belief the SIBC has is that a local service should be available to all who want it at whatever time is suitable to them, i.e. up to 24 hours a day.

This is not to say that I, or any of us involved in SIBC, are against any existing services nor are we necessarily critical of their programming values. It is simply that our approach to, and conception of, local radio is fundamentally different – not necessarily better, just different.

I must admit that if I’d known it would take so much trouble to argue the case for such radio with the Home Office, I would never have started. Although the idea of a local station has been on the minds of quite a few local people for a score of years or more, my recent enthusiasm started in the late seventies. I’ve been working full time on the project for nearly 20 months (unpaid) and 95 per cent of that time was spent simply presenting our case and the case of other similar stations elsewhere. It has been 20 months of telephoning, writing and hoping. Now we can all get down to actually working on the station.

We have had a lot of success. By using new technology, our own systems and up-to-date thinking, we have managed to design a local radio station for a quarter of the minimum of £1m that the cheapest local radio was said to cost (the average for starting up, studios and transmitters is nearer £2.5m). We can also run the station for a fraction of what other stations cost to run, making the station financially viable in an area with as small a population as Shetland.

However, it’s obvious that something so time consuming, and something that has had to be so strenuously fought for, can, and has, become a private obsession. As long as I recognise that then that’s fine. However it means that no matter how I try, I can no longer be objective when it comes to considering other media, particularly local media. So that’s why I’m bowing out. To the trusty band of followers who always stop me to comment on this column, you can still stop me. But maybe we’d better talk about something else. Now how about the weather? No, maybe not!

Footnote: On 25th July the Home Secretary announced that Shetland is to get a medium wave radio station. He also announced that the station, along with other new ones, should be on the air at the beginning of the year.


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