This radio station started off as a personal technical project way back in the day where USR Robotics has just produced a 14k4 Sportster modem and I was able to listen to the very few internet radio stations that you could receive via the world wide web found by searching Usenet user groups and my new Netscape Navigator browser. Quality was poor but it was more stable and perhaps, just perhaps, better than it was listening to Radio Luxembourg on 208m (1432kHz) Medium Wave.
In 2004 I launched 60 North FM which was a dedicated tourist information radio service to provide local information and interpretation of the different geographical areas of Shetland that was conveyed in a relaxed ‘story-telling’ format by local experts. Thanks to David Watson for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to take it forward at a time when everyone was a self-confessed luddite and proud of it.
The service was expanded in 2005 to six transmitter sites in Shetland; Unst, Eshaness, Brae, Walls, Bressay and Sumburgh Head operating in 87.7MHz and licensed under OFCOM’s restricted Low Power FM Radio service. Local music was programmed alongside the interpretative content and it allowed for a ‘Shetlandic’ feel where both local information and local musicians could inform and inspire the many visitors to Shetland. The Shetland fiddle could now be heard online and on-air 24×7 – marmite, some might say.
A new studio was created in the Hoswick Visitor Centre and the first live programming was done from this location however it was short-lived as the broadband connectivity was just not capable of sustaining the operation although things have improved significantly today. Marjolein & Dirk Robertson, Kathie Hubbard were just a few people who inspired me to continue to consider a means to provide an outlet for local programming and to develop potential talent through a community radio approach.
In 2014 the wheels were coming off the wagon. Almost all the FM transmitters had been damaged – usually lightening induced issues or problems caused by power surges. I remember the feeling of despair looking at the missing antenna in Unst that a storm had snapped like a twig…the antenna was never found! So one by one the FM stations came off-air and we focussed as an online service only and also moved into a studio in the new cinema and music venue – Mareel – thanks to the support of Shetland Arts Development Agency’s Director, Gwilym Gibbons, and his production manager, Iain Waddell.
The period 2014-17 was a challenging time on so many fronts that even a further studio move to premises at 4 Market Street in Lerwick could not solve. We did manage to introduce Tom Morton’s Beatcroft Social radio show to the station and managed some amazing technical achievements from this new location as it was so well connected to the internet via local internet service provider, Shetland Broadband. ISP founder, Ian Brown, has helped me on so many levels over the years. The concept of visualising radio was firmly established in our mindset. We entered into a new collaboration with local radio station SIBC to allow them to get online and in return their technical guru, Bo Anderson, helped me develop our approach to station automation.
By the end of 2017 we had created an amazing team – that blend of youth and maturity that just makes things happen. We’d all been on one helluva a journey (and not always the same one). Two-way knowledge sharing, loads of stress, many tears shed but most importantly that team had fun and established a strong bond.
2018 was a blur as all efforts were placed on getting Shetland Webcams up and running again and the challenges of a major crowdfunding campaign. Radio was way down the list however it was radio and Tom Morton’s Beatcroft Show that we re-established just to act as an anchor for the campaign. Despite Tom’s health scares he was there to support me, as was Iain and the many other people across the world that have continued to support these initiatives.
One year on since the end of the RedEye Campaign and with the official start of summer in 2019 we re-relaunched the new 60 North Radio platform. We added new presenters such as Mike Marwick, Bill Black and Colin MacDonald and commenced developing both the format and the systems purely for internet broadcasting.
Fast forward a few years and despite the global pandemic the station continues to develop with Mike Wade, Clive Munro and Tom Morton all back broadcasting. The difference is that no one ever comes to a studio and likely never will.
60 North Radio is now purely an internet radio station with a focus now on supporting remote contribution broadcasting where we bring the station virtually to the presenter and it seems to work quite well. During lockdown the station gained a number of new listeners and we have kept many of them despite the amazing competition there is in this media space.
A website refresh was overdue so this has now been completed for the end of 2021
The station started using one shared media server in the UK but on December 8th 2021 we have finally completed the build of our global CDN to serve listeners from high capacity streaming edge servers in Chicago, London, Singapore and Sydney.
And finally, I am dedicating this to my father, John Steven, who died 1st June 2014. He was the person responsible for getting me hooked on all aspects of technology and was an avid supporter of all my crazy ideas.