Ron Onions and the IRN transformation

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July 16, 2012 by dontbringlulubook

In March 1974, having left London’s Capital Radio, Ron Onions moved to London Broadcasting (LBC) to become an editor of the national and international news service IRN.

The early 1970’s were challenging times commercially and economically for Britain’s national press.  However, whilst diligently working away, Onions developed and sustained a quality of output until it could confidently stand alongside that of the BBC’s radio news operation.  This would forge one of the main competitors against the BBC in terms of content and style of output.

A landmark of this would be the joint experiment in the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House of Commons in 1975, in which IRN stood next to the BBC in a small broadcasting booth.  This had a profound effect on audiences and showed the political classes that independent radio could match the BBC, and it went a long way towards ensuring the continuation of independent local radio after initial political uncertainty within this particular media sector.

By the early 1980’s computer technology was slowly being introduced into the radio news rooms.  A proverbial soup of wires and connections.  The sector’s news operations as a whole came into its own during the Falklands war in 1982, a story that linked international goings on with the local audience. A main factor of this was the presence of an IRN reporter embedded with the taskforce alongside the BBC. Kim Sabido’s reporting from on board the SS Canberra was only possible after Onions’s typical and trenchant hails of IRN’s causes to the Ministry of Defence.   Using the phrase “our reporter” added a sense of credibility to the output highlighted the human side of journalism through tragic and turbulent times.

IRN

IRN

 

Creative approaches to turning traditional style of news output was placed on it’s head under the helm of Ron Onions.  New techniques were introduced to help engage the listener.  The three minute snapshot was an influence from the US.  The idea of using journalists to voice reports added a sense of immediacy to the stories, as well as piping in reports from the mobile phone changed the sound of British radio.

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