August 11, 2016 by dontbringlulubook
Vince McGarry, one of the stalwarts of IRN, the news service for Britain’s independent local radio network from 1973 (ILR), was interviewed by Sarah Onions at his north London home.
McGarry was a key figure in the operation of IRN which was based in Gough Square next to the studios of LBC Radio in London from 1973.
He had worked as a journalist in Australia and during the filming he explained how his experience of radio on the other side of the world was much less stuffy than that of Britain.
At the start of the 70’s broadcasting in the UK was dominated by the BBC. Indeed, there was no commercial radio based in mainland Britain.
He recalled seeing a journalist at the BBC bringing a tape recorder back to the newsroom but only using the audio as a record of what was said – not to be transmitted.
He also remembered news production staff at the corporation sticking rigidly to the ‘two sources’ rule for news stories – even demanding three sources on occasion.
Vince worked with co-Lulu author Ron Onions and remembered Ron’s vivid enthusiasm and energetic description of how American news radio worked.
Ron had been the first news organiser for the BBC in New York and he used to listen to WINS news radio in Manhattan which gave him ideas when ILR got underway in Britain.
Vince recalled the early days of LBC and IRN recalling the stories of the time – the oil crisis, hijackings and the Yom Kippur War.
He also talked on camera about a later military conflict when Britain and Argentina fought over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
He noted that IRN reporter Kim Sabido covered it using one of the first satellite phones. Sabido did so well that he was offered a job with Independent TV News (ITN) and offered his resignation to his radio bosses using the satphone.
This conflict was significant for ILR as Sabido and reporter Antonia Higgs were included in the press accreditation – after Ron Onions, now editorial director of IRN argued with an initially reluctant Foreign Office that they should cover the events along with BBC reporters.
The intake editor for IRN recalled the use of new and sometimes unorthodox technology for newsgathering which set it apart and ahead of the BBC.
He referred to radio cars, Comrex (which connected a phone line to a sound system) and the use of croc clips. The latter were used by reporters to send voice reports and interviews down the line for the next bulletin.
IRN’s most important achievement was that of a broadening of news. This meant that for the first time ordinary people heard ordinary voices on the air.
The interview was filmed by director John Bolton, who began his radio career at Radio Trent and later worked at LBC as an engineering supervisor, alongside presenters Brian Hayes and Pete Murray.