The IBA's original main 1950s 405-line VHF Band II television transmitting station at Burnhope, County Durham. Originally used for Metro Radio's VHF-FM ILR service on 97.0 MHz from 1974, it is now used as a transmitting station for other FM and DAB transmission, and is still used by Bauer and OFCOM for today's Metro Radio. For 13 years until the introduction of  UHF analogue Channel 5 television in 1997, Metro's VHF-FM signal was the only transmission from the mast.

Metro Radio, the Independent Local Radio station for the Tyne and Wear area was launched at 6.00am on July 15, 1974.  It was the sixth such station to begin broadcasting in the UK, and the official name of the programme contractor appointed by the regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), was Metropolitan Broadcasting Limited (MBC).  Metropolitan Broadcasting was to supply programmes initially
between 6.00am and 2.00am the following morning, daily (closing at 1.00am on a Sunday).

The new studios were located on a light industrial estate at Radio House, Longrigg, Swalwell on the southern bank of the River Tyne, slightly west of Gateshead.  In common with other Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations of the time, Metro Radio was to ‘simulcast’ on two frequencies, 261 metres AM medium wave (1151 kHz) and 97.0MHz VHF FM in stereo.

Predicted VHF coverage by the IBA for the new ILR Tyne and Wear franchise, November, 1973.

Two transmitter sites were allocated by the IBA for the service and were Greenside near Ryton for AM medium wave (1kW directional, towards Newcastle and Sunderland), and the IBA's
IBA Year Book, 1984
Burnhope mast at Maiden Law, Lanchester, County Durham for VHF-FM (5kW effective radiated power, circular polarisation, nulled to the Pennines and the south).

The Greenside array was highly directional towards Tyne and Wear and the North Sea.  This was to protect other ILR services broadcasting on the same medium wave frequency in Glasgow (Radio Clyde), Birmingham (BRMB), Plymouth (Plymouth Sound), Manchester (Piccadilly Radio) and London (LBC News Radio).

The IBA's new (in 1974) Greenside, Ryton Medium Wave/AM directional array (towards Tyne/Wear) used for the output of Metro Radio. The transmitter was directional to prevent interference with and protect the output of other Independent Local Radio services in the UK operating on the same frequency. Such directional arrays existed for services on 261m (1151kHz) in London (LBC 261), Glasgow (Radio Clyde 261), Manchester (Piccadilly Radio 261), Birmingham (BRMB 261) and Plymouth (261 Plymouth Sound).

The height of the Burnhope VHF facility ensured a large (by ILR standards of the time) VHF service area  that would stretch from Ferryhill, Sedgefield and Peterlee in the south, to Longframlington and Alnwick in the north.  The Pennines would form a natural barrier to the west, whilst the eastern part of the service area stretched to the North Sea.  However, until relay stations opened in the 1990s, VHF coverage was not particularly good in parts of the Tyne valley from Blaydon to Hexham.

An IBA technical sheet detailing Metro Radio's VHF service area, technical information and mission statement (from the IBA Year Book, 1974).

In September, 1986 under the UK Government's re-alignment of the VHF radio broadcast
The IBA Year Book, 1976.
band. Metro Radio's VHF FM frequency was slightly adjusted to 97.1 MHz and to better serve the station's official IBA VHF service fringe areas, the effective radiated power of the transmitter was increased to 10kW, a massive signal compared to the original 1970s IBA standards.

The IBA's remit for the station was that it was to reflect life in Tyne and Wear, south Northumberland and north County Durhamand   Indeed it was briefed to include much speech-based programmes, such as news, and costly-to-produce dramas, children's programmes and documentaries.
Metropolitan Broadcasting's own TSA service area for Great North Radio (south), used for the sourcing of radio commercial for the AM service, March, 1989.

Metro Radio's Total Marketing Service Area, IBA Yearbook 1984.
IBA Engineer extolling and promoting the virtues of the IBA's new 97.0 MHz VHF FM service in the Metro Radio marquee at the Tyneside Summer Exhibition, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, July 1976.

Metro Radio's own in-house engineer Ian Britton in Studio 2, Radio House, Longrigg, Swalwell

Metro Radio's Technical Operations supervisor Brian Lister in the Metro Radio marquee at the Tyneside Summer Exhibition outside broadcast (OB), July 1975.

Metro Radio's OB vehicle parked outside the studios at Radio House, Longrigg, Swalwell on a snowy winter's day in 1976.

LBC/IRN's presenters Douglas Cameron and Bob Holness interviewing a guest during LBC's 'AM 'programme in July, 1976. At the top of each hour, one of the presenters would read the IRN news which would be distributed via GPO landline to the increasig number of ILR stations, including Metro Radio.

The Independent Radio News (IRN) link

In common with all of the other 19 original ILR stations, Metro's national and international news
was provided by IRN, a wholly owned subsidiary of London's news and information ILR franchise holder the London Broadcasting Company (LBC), opened on October, 1973. Audio material including bulletins, individual news reports and documentaries were provided by high quality Post Office landlines.

Trade and Test Transmissions and Announcements

IBA Announcement 'Do you know all of the commercials you hear on this station...'

IBA 97MHz VHF Burnhope, Greenside, Ryton (directional) 261 metres (1151kHz) Medium Wave Transmitter Trade Test Transmission Announcement

Metropolitan Broadcasting Company and IBA Trade Test Transmissions - Reel 1

Metropolitan Broadcasting Company and IBA Trade Test Transmissions - Reel 2


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