Thirty years ago the only source of radio in the UK was the BBC and various “pirate” stations based on converted fishing vessels anchored just outside British territorial waters. All this changed in 1973 when the first commercial radio stations went on air and the BBC lost its monopoly on the airwaves. Independent Radio News (IRN) was set up by LBC, one of the first commercial stations, to offer a 24-hour service of national and international news to any station willing to pay for it. Despite widespread uptake for the service, profit growth only really began in 1987 when the company asked radio stations to pay in advertising slots instead of hard cash. “Basically, we offered the stations our services for free in return for advertising slots,” says managing director John Perkins. “That meant that, if a big advertiser wanted an advert on every commercial radio station at 8am, they could come to us and we could arrange it.” Further profitability came in 1992 when London-based IRN decided to contract out all of its services, which helped it to keep a firm control on costs. IRN’s news services are now supplied by ITN and the company, which provides news to 250 radio stations and 27 million people every week, employs only three people directly. Such measures, together with the continued success of commercial radio, have seen the IRN’s profits increase 30% a year, from £2.2m in 1997 to £4.9m in 2000, when sales reached £17.2m.
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