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'Quashed': Radio station boss on loss of breakfast show

PUBLISHED: 16:00 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:46 28 February 2019

Radio Broadland, undated. Photo: Archant Library

Radio Broadland, undated. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

The founder of Radio Broadland has shared the story behind the station, as its current owners Heart announced the closure of its breakfast show.

The launch of Radio Broadland, 1 October 1984. Photo: Archant LibraryThe launch of Radio Broadland, 1 October 1984. Photo: Archant Library

John Swinfield, a former Fleet Street hack, was flying from London to New York in the early 1980s when he spotted an article inviting licence applications for a commercial station in Norwich and Norfolk.

Mr Swinfield, who has worked as a journalist for the BBC, Anglia TV, and a number of national papers, said: “I saw the advert and knew there would be a lot of competition for the licence. By the time I landed at JFK, I’d scribbled the skeleton outline for the station.”

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The regular presenters of Broadland Radio in September 1984  before the launch of the station in October, Photo: Archant LibraryThe regular presenters of Broadland Radio in September 1984 before the launch of the station in October, Photo: Archant Library

Upon his return from filming documentaries in the States, Mr Swinfield recruited the University of East Anglia’s Macolm Bradbury, the 7th Earl of Leicester Lord Edward Coke, and Labour peer Pat Hollis – later Baroness Hollis of Heigham.

He said: “At the time Colegate was a bit run down, and the chap developing it gave us a studio in the former shoe factory at a reduced rate. We were all given wooden shoe trees with plaques on to mark the occasion.”

The station launched on October 1, 1984.

He continued: “We had gained our licence on the basis that there would be a strong speech element; it would be an alternative editorial to the monopolies of the paper and TV.

“We wanted it to be the Daily Mail of the broadcast world – scale wise in terms of 
politically - but realistically that was a pie in the sky. We didn’t have the money for the teams of journalists, the researchers, the sub editors or the industry experts.”

As a result, the station turned to “pop and prattle”.

Radio Broadland was later taken on by Global, the owners of Heart which ran the show until recently.

“DJs playing pop tracks were cheaper, and we were gaining listeners where many other stations were shutting down. In the end, that success was our downfall,” he added.

Having set up the station, Mr Swinfield decided to focus more on his journalism career, before turning to writing novels and historic non-fiction.

He said: “I’m saddened by the loss of the breakfast show for my former colleagues and compatriots. But it’s one of those things, like a lot of local journalism, which won’t be missed until it’s gone. There’s so much loneliness that the sense of connection and community is so frail and yet vitally important, and the gigantic media companies are quashing that like an ant under a heel.”

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